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Australian adviser quits over Iraq

Howard faces widespread domestic opposition to attacking Iraq.
Howard faces widespread domestic opposition to attacking Iraq.

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CANBERRA, Australia -- A senior intelligence adviser to Australian Prime Minister John Howard has resigned in protest at the government's support for a war on Iraq.

Andrew Wilkie says Australia's support for military action is "bad policy, dumb policy."

"Going to war against Iraq, invading Iraq, is exactly the course of action most likely to cause Saddam to lash out recklessly, to use weapons of mass destruction, and maybe even play the terrorism card," he told Australia's Channel Nine television in an interview Tuesday.

Wilkie, who worked as an analyst at the Office of National Assessments (ONA), said going to war against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime when other options had not yet been exhausted was "not worth the risk."

The ONA is an intelligence assessment department attached to the prime minister's office.

Confirming the resignation ONA head Kim Jones told reporters that Wilkie's views were not those of the department.

Wilkie, he said, did not deal with Iraq issues.

"It is not our role to give policy advice, we are an assessment agency," Reuters quoted Jones as saying.

In separate development Tuesday Australia expelled an Iraqi diplomat after he was accused of working for the Iraqi intelligence service.

The head of the Iraqi diplomatic mission in Australia said the expulsion of Helal Ibrahim Aaref was "shameful," and denied the diplomat was a spy.

Prime Minister Howard has denied suggestions that the decision to expel Aaref was made on Washington's orders.

Despite vocal opposition, the Australian leader has put himself firmly behind U.S. policy on Iraq committing Australian land, sea and airborne divisions to the American-led military build-up in the Gulf.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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