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Australia's Foreign Minister Resigns

Kevin Rudd in leadership rift with Prime Minister Julia Gillard
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 22, 2012 8:16 AM CST
Australia's Foreign Minister Resigns
In this Feb. 20, 2012 file photo, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, meets with Australia's Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd at the G20 foreign ministers summit in Los Cabos, Mexico.   (Charles Dharapak)

(Newser) – Australia's foreign minister resigned today in a bitter rift with Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who may poll party lawmakers next week on who should lead the country. Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd announced his resignation during a news conference in Washington, where he was visiting on official business, and he said the relentless speculation that he planned to seize power from Gillard had become a distraction. "I can only serve as foreign minister if I have the confidence of Prime Minister Gillard and her senior ministers," Rudd said.

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Gillard ousted Rudd as prime minister in June 2010 in an internal coup, and their center-left Labor Party scraped through elections later that year to lead a minority government. Polls now suggest Labor would suffer a devastating defeat, but Gillard maintains she has her colleagues' support. Gillard will hold a news conference tomorrow to "make a further statement" on Rudd's resignation. Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported she will announce a leadership ballot of Labor lawmakers to be held at Parliament House on Monday. A Labor senior strategist said he spoke to Rudd before his announcement and that Rudd is likely to challenge Gillard. (Read more Kevin Rudd stories.)

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