Obama Hits Back at Australian Prime Minister

Barack Obama has hit back at the Conservative Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, after he said that al-Qaeda could take comfort from Obama's plan to withdraw troops from Iraq by next March.

Mr Howard was interviewed yesterday morning Australian time on the "Sunday" television Program. He said that if he were running al-Qaeda in Iraq he would "put a circle around March 2008 and be praying as many times as possible for a victory not only for Obama but also for the Democrats."

John Howard is a good friend and strong supporter of President Bush.

But Barack Obama hit back, saying that Mr Howard should put troops where his mouth is. He noted that America has "...close to 140,000 troops in Iraq, and my understanding is Mr Howard has deployed 1,400, so if he is to fight the good fight in Iraq, I would suggest that he calls up another 20,000 Australians and sends them to Iraq."

Obama said that if John Howard didn't take up his invitation, his attack on him would be nothing more than empty rhetoric.

The Australian Opposition Leader, Kevin Rudd said that Mr Howard had allowed his personal relationship with President Bush cloud his judgement. He said the attack on Barack Obama was short sighted and irresponsible.

The Australian opposition Labor party has opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning, and would withdraw Australian troops if elected.

Barack Obama's reponse at a news conference, reported by Fox News.