Australia's Rudd to Focus on Warming

SYDNEY, Australia -- Newly elected leader Kevin Rudd moved quickly Sunday to bring Australia into international talks on fighting global warming and to head off potentially thorny relations with the United States and key Asian neighbors.

The emphatic victory for Rudd's Labor Party swings Australia toward the political left after almost 12 years of conservative rule and puts it at odds with key security ally Washington on the two crucial issues of Iraq and global warming.

The day after sweeping to power in general elections, Rudd went straight to work, holding meetings with government officials about the mechanics of signing the Kyoto Protocol on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

He also took phone calls from foreign leaders.

Britain, New Zealand and Indonesia said Rudd's election would boost international efforts to address climate change by ending ousted Prime Minister John Howard's refusal to sign the Kyoto pact.

Malaysia's leader said Rudd's plan to pull Australia's combat troops from Iraq would also improve the country's international standing, the Malaysian national news agency Bernama reported.

Rudd spoke by phone with U.S. President George W. Bush late Saturday. Rudd declined to give details of the conversation, but said he plans to visit Washington next year.

The leaders agreed during the call that they looked forward to working together, said White House National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

Rudd, a Chinese-speaking former diplomat, also talked with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, accepting his invitation to attend a December UN meeting in Bali to map out the world's next steps against climate change.

Relations between Australia and Indonesia -- its giant northern neighbor -- are sometimes rocky, and could take a downturn due to a recent coroner's recommendation that former Indonesian soldiers face a war crimes investigation over the deaths of Australia-based journalists in East Timor in 1975.

On Sunday, at his first news conference, Rudd promised "action, and action now" on climate change and nominated education, health and a high-speed Internet network as other top priorities of his government.

He said Labor lawmakers were due to meet on Thursday, and he hoped that his Cabinet would be sworn in soon after that.

Rudd's election ended the 11-year rule of Howard, Australia's second-longest serving leader.

Howard faces the further possible embarrassment of losing his own district seat in Parliament -- a fate suffered only once before by a sitting prime minister in 106 years of federal government.