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Australians Stand Firm: Australian Minister of Defense Brendan Nelson paid his first visit as Australia’s top defense official to the Pentagon June 28, vowing that his country will remain a solid coalition partner in Southwest Asia operations. During a visit with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Nelson said Australia has no plans to reduce its force of about 1,350 personnel in Iraq, saying they will remain until Iraqi forces can take “control of their own affairs.” Nelson said Australia is increasing its defense spending and is determined to see that forces are interoperable with the US. (Australia remains one of the larger partner nations on the Joint Strike Fighter project.)