'Bush more isolated as Howard ousted'

US President George W. Bush was a little more isolated in the world Sunday after his close Australian ally on Iraq and climate change was thrown out of office, analysts said.

'Bush more isolated as Howard ousted'
Outgoing prime minister John Howard was one of the staunchest supporters of Bush's policies in the "war on terror" and the only other world leader to refuse to sign the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.

The conservative Howard's nearly 12 years in power ended Saturday when he was ousted in elections by centre-left Labour Party leader Kevin Rudd, who has pledged to pull the country's troops out of Iraq and sign Kyoto.

While both moves could be irritating for Bush, they are unlikely to have any major effect on the good relationship between the two countries, which Rudd has pledged to cherish, analysts said.

"All countries are talking about troop withdrawals from Iraq and Australia's contribution was a modest one, with 500 combat troops," Australia National University analyst John Hart said.

"I think this might be a slight annoyance to the US government but given the United Kingdom and the US itself are talking of reducing troop numbers in Iraq it would not be a major problem.

"The thing that really does change, however, is that Howard and Bush had a very close personal relationship."

Hart pointed out that Labour had said it was willing to consider increasing Australia's troop commitment in Afghanistan, saying this could be "a bit of a sweetener to the US."

Rudd's commitment to signing Kyoto would also be "slightly annoying" to Washington but would be unlikely to force a change in US policy, he said.

The environmental group Greenpeace, however, said Howard's ouster would leave Bush "isolated in his battle against international action on climate change."

There was likely to be a sigh of relief from government negotiators around the world who would shortly head to Bali, Indonesia, for discussions on how to strengthen the Kyoto treaty in its second phase, Greenpeace said.

"The atmosphere at next week's Kyoto talks in Bali will be markedly different due to this election result," said Shane Rattenbury, political director of Greenpeace International.

"The US administration will no longer be able to plot with the Australians in its effort to destroy international progress against climate change."

But Rudd, who has pledged to attend the Bali conference, stressed in his victory speech to rapturous supporters on Saturday night that he regarded the United States as a friend.

"I extend our greetings tonight to our great friend and ally the United States, to our great friends and allies across Asia and the Pacific, and to our great friends and partners in Europe and beyond," he said.

"We look forward to working in partnership with all those nations."

In return, Bush congratulated Rudd on his victory and indicated the relationship between the two countries would remain strong.

"The United States and Australia have long been strong partners and allies and the president looks forward to working with this new government to continue our historic relationship," said spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore.

Bush also complimented his outgoing friend, hailing Howard's commitment to "keeping Australians safe by fighting extremists and their ideology around the world."

While Howard's main loyalties lay with the West, Rudd would likely take a less insular approach to foreign policy and strengthen relations with Australia's Asian neighbours, said Deakin University analyst Damien Kingsbury.

"There will probably be a more engaged relationship with Asia, a more engaged dialogue that really opens up opportunities for better understanding," Kingsbury said.

Hart agreed. "Howard was an old world prime minister in a new world country. He had a sort of 1950s attitude to Asia, which never really left him. Rudd is more positive and forward looking."


Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 25 Kasım 2007, 15:09
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