Sunday, November 25, 2007

New Australian PM signals Iraq pullout

AUSTRALIA’S new prime minister Kevin Rudd will mark his arrival on the international stage by announcing the withdrawal of his country’s combat troops from Iraq and signing the Kyoto treaty on climate change.

Rudd, a republican and former diplomat, swept to power as his Labor party stormed to a landslide victory in yesterday’s elections.

Official figures showed Labor had won more than 53% of the vote, compared with just under 47% for the ruling Liberal coalition of John Howard, who had served four terms as prime minister but lost his seat. Computer projections forecast that Labor would secure 86 seats in the 150-seat lower house of parliament.

Rudd, 50, who has been called a “Tone Clone” for his similarities to Tony Blair on policy, told cheering supporters that the electorate had decided to “write a new page in our nation’s history”.

Howard, who dominated Australia’s political scene for more than a decade, was accused of misreading the mood of voters who wanted change despite a booming economy.

Clearly shaken by the scale of the defeat Howard, 68, told demoralised supporters that he may soon retire......

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