NEW YORK – Australian Prime Minister John Howard conceded electoral defeat Saturday, as the Labor Party won control over the government with promises to withdraw all combat troops from Iraq and to sign the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

Preliminary results showed a large margin of victory for the opposition Labor Party over the ruling Liberal-National coalition, news reports said, adding that Howard appeared to have also been voted out of his own seat in the legislature.

Despite its name, the Liberal Party is generally seen as more conservative than its Labor rival.

In addition to vowing changes to the country’s Iraq and global warming policies, Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd has said he wants to improve relations with China and that he will keep much of the previous administration’s economic policies intact.

Rudd said in a victory speech that he will “put aside the old battles of the past, between business and unions, between growth and the environment.”

In a concession speech, Howard said his government was leaving Australia more prosperous than when it came to power in 1996. He also indicated support for Treasurer Peter Costello to succeed him as party leader.

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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.


ARCHIVE PHOTOS on MCT Direct (from MCT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): JOHN HOWARD

GRAPHICS (from MCT Graphics, 202-383-6064): HOWARD, RUDD

AP-NY-11-24-07 1712EST

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