Obama, new Australia PM talk military

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama called for the full implementation of plans to station US troops in Australia as he congratulated incoming prime minister Tony Abbott, the White House said Thursday.

Obama late Wednesday telephoned Abbott, whose conservative Liberal Party swept back to power Saturday after six years, as well as outgoing Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, a close ally of the US leader.

"The president and prime minister-elect discussed ways to further strengthen the US-Australia alliance, including by implementing fully the force posture initiatives announced by the United States and Australia in November 2011," a White House statement said.

On a visit at the time to Australia, Obama said that more than 2,500 Marines would move by 2016-17 to the northern city of Darwin.

The move was part of Obama's so-called US "pivot" policy of putting a greater emphasis on Asia.

Abbott and Obama also backed the ambitious goal of negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free trade deal that would span much of Asia, by the end of the year, the White House said.

In a crisis that has been dominating Obama's time, he and Abbott shared "grave concern" over charges that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons, the statement said.

In his call to Rudd, Obama thanked the Labor Party prime minister "for his friendship, leadership and unflinching support of the US-Australia relationship" and his "strong position" on Syria.

Australia is one of the closest US allies and has joined the United States in conflicts including Vietnam and Iraq.