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Ecumenical assault on Govt more Iraq troops decision

The National Council of Churches in Australia - which includes the Catholic Church - has savaged the Government's decision to send more troops to Iraq as "scandalous", saying the Prime Minister had broken trust with the Australian people.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Council's "strongly worded statement" expresses "dismay" on behalf of Christians and regrets that John Howard had not apologised for his stance.

The Council said its thoughts and prayers would be with military personnel. But the 450-troop deployment to protect Japanese Self-Defence Forces undertaking humanitarian projects was a "backward step".

"This enhanced risk of lives and huge expense of millions of dollars in military action is but the latest example of the scandalous waste of money and human beings in the pursuit of a misconceived strategy," its statement said.

"We further deplore that this decision has been taken so soon in the life of the re-elected Howard Government, when the Australian people gave no mandate for an escalation of such dangerous military adventurism.

The council - a long-term critic of the war - wants a planned withdrawal of Australian troops and self-determination for Iraq. The intervention by the body that represents all the major churches - and in particular, the attack on Mr Howard - could raise the political stakes for the Government.

Prime Minister John Howard conceded yesterday that his policy reversal had received a mixed reaction, while shifting his language to say it was "highly unlikely" that Australia would send more troops to Iraq.

Opposition Leader Kiim Beazley ramped up his attack, calling for Mr Howard to release the intelligence advice that underpinned the policy reversal. Throughout the election campaign and as recently as three weeks ago, Mr Howard said there would be no significant increase in troops.

"Australian people are entitled to know exactly the character of the advice the Prime Minister sought, and what that advice was" before changing its policy, Mr Beazley said.

Churches attack Iraq troop plan (Sydney Morning Herald 25/2/05)

National Council of Churches in Australia | Grave Christian Concern over Increasing the Australian Military Presence in Iraq (Feb 05)

Australia sending more Iraq troops (CNN 22/2/05)
Iraqi archbishop says prayer saved him from death during kidnapping (Catholic News Service 23/2/05)
John Paul II Meets With Patriarch of Baghdad (Zenit 20/2/05)
Iraqi Prelate Confident Exiled Christians Will Return (Zenit 20/2/05)
Sister Lucia Has Told All Details, Says Researcher (Zenit 20/2/05)
The Religious Face of Iraq (Pew Forum/Washington Post 18/2/05)
Christian convert killed in Iraq ( 19/2/05)
A new Iraq "is being born", says bishop (Aid to the Church in Need 17/2/05)

25 Feb 2005