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Australian PM Confident of Re-Election - 2004-10-03

Australian Prime Minister John Howard says he is confident of winning re-election to a fourth term this week, but by a narrow margin.

In a television interview Sunday, Mr. Howard said next Saturday's contest between his Liberal-National coalition and opposition leader Mark Latham's Labor Party will be very close.

After five weeks of campaigning, opinion polls put the two sides in a virtual dead heat.

Mr. Howard is running on the country's robust economy, including the lowest interest rates in a generation.

Labor Party spokesman Kevin Rudd says his party has three major foreign-policy goals: building stronger ties throughout the Asian region, supporting the United Nations and maintaining Canberra's traditional alliance with the United States.

Mr. Rudd says Prime Minister Howard's foreign-policy initiatives have made Australia "less secure." He repeated Labor's promise to withdraw the bulk of Australia's 850 soldiers from Iraq by Christmas.