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Australia to consider more troops for Afghanistan

world Updated: Mar 22, 2009 07:31 IST

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said on Sunday that he would consider sending more Australian troops to Afghanistan if the US asks for them, and that he backs a stronger role for China in the International Monetary Fund.

Rudd was speaking in a television interview before leaving for his first visit to Washington since President Barack Obama was elected. He will also attend other top level meetings in Europe on ways to ease the global financial crisis.

Australia is a staunch US ally and has about 1,000 troops in Afghanistan's south, where a Taliban insurgency is raging. Two Australian soldiers were killed in combat last week, taking the country's death toll to 10 and putting the war back in the domestic political spotlight.

Top Australian officials say the war in Afghanistan is going badly and that more troops are needed. But Canberra says those extra troops should come from European countries first because Australia is already doing its part.

Obama has ordered 17,000 more US troops to bolster the 38,000 American forces already in Afghanistan. He is widely expected to ask Australia to also do more.

"They may put to me a request for further Australian commitment and I will, together with my colleagues, consider all those things on their merits," Rudd told Nine Network television. "It doesn't mean you say yes, or say no, it may mean some change in the current configuration of what we do."

Rudd said the global financial crisis would also be a focus of his talks with Obama, scheduled for Tuesday.

Rudd has blamed the crisis on what he calls "extreme capitalism," chided big business, and demanded better regulation of global banking by international groups.

He said the International Monetary Fund needed more resources, flexibility and a greater role for China.

"Everyone's expecting China to put its money on the table _ that's fine," said Rudd, a Mandarin-speaking former diplomat in Beijing.

"But do you know in the IMF, China's voting rights are currently the same as those of Belgium and the Netherlands?" he said. "Now let's just get up with the reality of the 21st century."