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Australia to Send 150 More Troops to Afghanistan

Australian Prime Minister John Howard says his government will send an extra 150 soldiers to Afghanistan to protect an Australian reconstruction team that will arrive in the country next month.

Mr. Howard told parliament Wednesday the additional troops are necessary because of escalating violence in southern and central Afghanistan.

The reinforcements will protect a team of 240 Australian reconstruction workers, due to join a Dutch-led humanitarian project in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan.

The Australian military will also send more armored vehicles to Afghanistan as part of the extra troop deployment.

Australia already has more than 300 troops in Afghanistan, including 190 special forces and two Chinook helicopters.

Spokesman for Australia's opposition Labor Party, Kevin Rudd, expressed deep concern about the safety of Australian forces in Afghanistan, saying the country remains a center of terrorist activity.

Canberra announced plans to send the reconstruction team to Afghanistan in May.