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PM calls for restraint of US-Iran tensions as embassy ‘locked down’

Mr Morrison said he was not advised of the Trump administration’s intentions prior to the strikes, but was in “constant contact” with allies in the region and had made efforts to ensure the safety of Australians.

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“The United States took this action based on their own information and they took that action without discussing it with partners,” Mr Morrison said on Saturday.

He said he had “been aware” of Mr Trump’s concerns in relation to some practices by Iranians “for some time”, but he would “leave it to them to talk to what their actions are”.

“We’ve been aware of their strong views about those things for many years and I think that speaks for itself,” Mr Morrison said.

“We are very mindful and have spent a lot of effort focusing on those Australians who find themselves in the Middle East at this point and particularly in Iraq and also in diplomatic posts in the region.

“Our goal remains a united and stable Iraq, which is what also the Canadian government have said and we echo the sentiments they’ve expressed.”

The strike has marked a major escalation in the conflict between Washington and Iran, as Iran vowed “harsh retaliation”.

The two nations have faced repeated crises since Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and imposed crippling sanctions.

British government officials expressed alarm about the lack of consultation from the US, with Downing Street taken “by surprise”, causing anger among ministers who had to scramble to react to the rapidly-escalating crisis.

Mr Morrison said Australia’s Baghdad embassy had moved to “a very heightened sense of security” and was “effectively in lockdown” following the strikes.

He said Australia’s 2000 personnel deployment was “always under constant reassessment” and this was particularly the case in the Middle East.

“We have personnel in Iraq in three separate locations and the CDF

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[Chief of the Defence Force, General Angus Campbell] and his team are doing a reassessment but we are making sure that they are as safe as we can make them,” he said.

Mr Morrison said Australian Defence Minister Linda Reynolds and Foreign Minister Marise Payne would be speaking to the US counterparts on Saturday.

Australia has committed the HMAS Toowoomba, with 177 sailors, to join a US-led coalition to guard against oil supplies being threatened by Iran in the increasingly tense Strait of Hormuz in February.

Mr Morrison said the ship would be making its way towards India in the coming days and the government would “continue to monitor that situation very closely”.

Mr Trump said he ordered the killing of Soleimani because the general was “plotting to kill” many Americans and was also responsible for killing and wounding “thousands” of Americans in the region.

“He should have been taken out many years ago,” Trump tweeted from his private club in Palm Beach, Florida, where he was on holiday.

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