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Rudd Sworn In As Australia's Prime Minister

Australia's Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd was sworn in as prime minister Monday, ending the 11-year rule of conservative John Howard.

Mr. Rudd took the oath of office before Governor General Michael Jeffery in the capital.

Members of his new Cabinet, including Australia's first female deputy prime minister as well as a former rock star, also were sworn in during the ceremony in Canberra.

Before the swearing-in ceremony, Mr. Rudd said it is an important day because, as he put it, "we turn a new page into the future."

The new prime minister will represent Australia at the U.N.-sponsored climate-change conference in Bali, Indonesia, which has just begun. Mr.Rudd says ratification by Australia of the Kyoto Protocol on global warming will be his top priority.

Mr. Rudd also promised to improve health care and education, turning schools into "digital" classrooms with computers for every student.

Despite Australia's government change, President Bush says he is keen to maintain the "historic relationship" between Canberra and Washington.

Mr. Rudd is expected to visit the United States early next year, but his plans for a gradual withdrawal of Australia's 500 combat troops from Iraq may strain those close ties.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.