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Britain's Opposition Party Chooses Duncan Smith As Leader - 2001-09-14

Britain's opposition Conservative Party has chosen a new leader, Iain Duncan Smith. Mr. Smith soundly defeated former chancellor Kenneth Clarke to take over the leadership of a party that was trounced in two straight national elections.

Mr. Duncan Smith captured more than 60 percent of the ballots cast in the Conservative Party leadership race, which had turned into a bitter contest over the party's future.

His opponent, Kenneth Clarke, congratulated Mr. Duncan Smith and pledged his support.

The Conservatives had delayed announcing the results for one day in consideration of the terrorist violence in the United States.

In his victory speech, Mr. Duncan Smith said this was a day to set aside partisan politics. He promised full support for Prime Minister Tony Blair and the United States government. "I take this first opportunity to pledge that my party will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the prime minister and his government in supporting our friends and allies in the United States during this tragic time," he said.

Mr. Duncan Smith spoke one day ahead of an emergency session of parliament to consider Britain's response to the attacks in the United States.

In his campaign to be Conservative leader, Mr. Duncan Smith vowed to never support the abandonment of the British currency, the pound, in favor the euro currency that will circulate in 12 European Union countries beginning in January.

Mr. Clarke had favored closer cooperation with Europe and he had argued that after two straight electoral defeats, the Conservatives were out of touch with mainstream Britain.