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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Australia Cuts Iraq Presence

CANBERRA, Australia -- Australia said Tuesday it would scale back its naval contribution to the U.S.-led war on Iraq by one frigate later this month, as there was a reduced workload in the Gulf.

However, six Australian air force intelligence specialists are to be added to the U.S.-led forces to help assess battle and bomb damage, Defense Minister Robert Hill said.

The frigates HMAS Anzac and HMAS Darwin, have been in the Gulf enforcing sanctions against Iraq since October.

Hill said they would leave for Australia by the end of April, to be replaced by one frigate, the HMAS Sydney. A supply ship, the HMAS Kanimbla, would remain in the Gulf.

An opinion poll released Tuesday showed a majority of Australians now support the U.S.-led war on Iraq. Polls prior to the invasion showed two-thirds of Australians opposed a war that did not have United Nations backing.

Hill conceded that graphic images of civilian casualties would likely affect support for the war "to an extent," but he said Australians understood that every effort was being made to minimize injuries and death to innocent Iraqis.

The return of the two guided-missile frigates is expected to reduce Australia's 2,000-strong force in the Iraq war by several hundred. Fighter jets, transport aircraft, navy divers and about 150 elite SAS troops will remain in the war.

Hill said the six imagery specialists would deploy this week to evaluate damage at bombed targets.