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Saturday, October 09, 2004


Australian PM Howard wins re-election, ensures Aussie troops remain in Iraq
12:10 PM EDT Oct 09

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) - Prime Minister John Howard scored a convincing victory in Australia's federal election Saturday, winning a historic fourth term in a vote ensuring the staunch U.S. ally keeps its troops in Iraq.

With more than 70 per cent of votes tallied, Howard appeared likely to increase his government's majority in parliament - exceeding most analysts' predictions that the result would be very tight.

"My fellow Australians . . . I am truly humbled by this extraordinary expression of confidence in the leadership of this great nation by the coalition," Howard told cheering supporters of his conservative alliance in Sydney.

Labour party leader Mark Latham earlier conceded defeat before supporters in western Sydney, saying he had called Howard to congratulate him.

"Tonight was not our night," Latham told the crowd.

The election was widely seen abroad as the first referendum for the three leaders who launched the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, with President George W. Bush facing a ballot Nov. 2 and British Prime Minister Tony Blair probably facing voters next year.

The Labour party had vowed to bring the roughly 900 Australian troops deployed in and around Iraq home by Christmas, while Howard insisted they will stay until the U.S.-installed government asks them to leave. Australian troops have not suffered any casualties and none have combat roles.


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