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Rifkind Withdraws from British Conservative Party Leader Race

Former British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind has withdrawn from the race for leader of the Conservative Party and has thrown his support to former Finance Minister Kenneth Clarke.

Mr. Rifkind withdrew Tuesday after only seven of the party's 196 members of parliament would openly back his candidacy.

The move leaves four candidates in the running to succeed outgoing leader Michael Howard as party chief. Mr. Howard announced plans to step down as party leader after Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labor Party defeated the Conservatives in May parliamentary elections.

Mr. Rifkind says Mr. Clarke has the experience and popular appeal needed to challenge the government in the next election expected in 2009.

The remaining candidates are Conservative education spokesman David Cameron, the home affairs spokesman David Davis and foreign affairs spokesman Liam Fox.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.