World leaders welcome Australia's new PM

November 26, 2007 - 0:0

SYDNEY (AFP) -- Australia's key western allies and its Asian neighbors congratulated Kevin Rudd on his election as prime minister, as Aborigines and republicans Sunday welcomed the change of government.

Former diplomat Rudd ousted conservative and staunch monarchist Prime Minister John Howard in a crushing victory in Saturday's polls, promising landmark change on issues such as Iraq and climate change.
Canberra's major allies in the Iraq war, Britain and the U.S., congratulated Rudd on his election despite his objections to the conflict and his promise to pull Australia's 550 combat troops from the country.
U.S. President George W. Bush said he looked forward to working with the center-left leader, who has promised to represent ""all Australians.""
""The United States and Australia have long been strong partners and allies and the president looks forward to working with this new government to continue our historic relationship,"" White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore said.
The president also complimented the outgoing prime minister, saying his policies had led to strong economic growth and helped keep Australians safe by fighting extremists around the world.
Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown, in Uganda for a Commonwealth summit, congratulated his new Australian counterpart, praising in particular his moves to tackle climate change by pledging to sign the UN-backed Kyoto agreement.
""This is an immediate change for the Australian government,"" Brown said.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was the first foreign leader to phone Rudd and formally invited him to next month's meeting in Bali on climate change, the incoming Australian PM said.
""I also emphasized to President Yudhoyono the absolute importance of a strong bilateral relationship between ourselves and Indonesia and I look forward also, some time in the new year, to further visit Indonesia to extend and broaden our relationship with that country,"" Rudd told reporters Sunday.
New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said she looked forward to even closer ties with her neighbor across the Tasman.
""I anticipate that our close and familiar relationship will continue to flourish under Mr. Rudd and his new Labor government,"" she said.
""We are ready to cooperate with the new government in Australia ...Thailand is going to have a new election on December 23rd, and we are looking forward to our new government working with the Australian government later on,"" said Tharit Charungvat, Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman.
Back home, where Howard endured a prickly relationship with the country's indigenous population in more than 11 years in office, some Aboriginal groups welcomed the change in political leadership.
Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation's Gary Highland said Rudd's leadership could open ""a new era"" for the country's most disadvantaged group.
""But we certainly can't take anything for granted and we'll still need to effectively make the case for change to achieve the sorts of things that we want,"" he said.
Tasmanian Aboriginal leader Michael Mansell said indigenous people across the country would be relieved that Howard and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Mal Brough had been ousted after they had deployed police and military to remote camps to improve appalling conditions just weeks before the vote was called.
""Both Brough and Howard missed the cynicism the electorate had towards the motives of the coalition for invading Aboriginal communities in the lead-up to the election,"" he said.
The Australian Republican Movement, which wants an end to the British monarch being the country's head of state, said it was pleased that a prime minister who supported a republic had been elected.
""It is important that the republic is not treated as a second-order issue in the Rudd government's first term,"" chairman Mike Keating said.
""The importance of the symbolism of achieving the final step towards complete national independence and sovereignty should not be underrated.""