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 June 24, 2010
Australia has first woman PM as Gillard topples Rudd

 Australia's Julia Gillard has become the country's first female prime minister after former PM Kevin Rudd stood aside from a party ballot.

The change in the leadership of the ruling Labor Party comes just months ahead of a general election.

Correspondents say Mr Rudd did not stand in the vote, knowing he would suffer an embarrassing defeat.

The Labor Party has suffered a sharp drop in support in recent opinion polls.

Ms Gillard's swearing in as prime minister will be a formality.

"I feel very honoured, I will be making a full statement very shortly," she told reporters after emerging from a party meeting at Parliament House in Canberra.

A party spokesman said Ms Gillard had stood unopposed at a vote of the Labor Party's 112 members of parliament at a meeting on Thursday morning.

Mr Rudd had called a late-night news conference on Wednesday to announce the ballot after Ms Gillard said she would stand.

Commentators say she is unlikely to change Australia's key foreign policy positions such as its troop commitment to Afghanistan.

BBC News website