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Last Updated: Monday, 31 July 2006, 09:03 GMT 10:03 UK
Australia PM to go for fifth term
John Howard
The veteran leader will contest elections in 2007
Australian Prime Minister John Howard has announced that he will contest elections for a fifth term in office.

In a letter to backbenchers, Mr Howard, 67, said he had made his decision after consulting Liberal Party colleagues.

Mr Howard's announcement comes despite pressure from Treasurer Peter Costello, his deputy for over a decade, to step aside.

But Mr Costello, 47, ruled out a challenge to the prime minister, saying he would remain in his position.

Asked what he felt about Mr Howard's decision, Mr Costello replied: "Doesn't matter what I feel, that's the outcome".

Mr Howard, who has been in office 10 years, is Australia's second-longest serving prime minister. Robert Menzies, who held office for over 18 years, holds the record.

Correspondents say Mr Howard's popularity stems from a strong economy, and opinion polls have consistently shown him with a high approval rating.

A poll for Sky TV carried out on Monday after his announcement showed 82% of those asked thought he had made the right decision to stay on as prime minister.

Rift

In his letter to lawmakers, Mr Howard said he was committed to leading the party in the next election.

Sydney residents give their views on Howard's decision

"My soundings tell me that the strong view of the party is that the current leadership team, with me as leader and Peter Costello as deputy leader, should remain in place through to the next election," Mr Howard wrote.

The row over the leadership between the two men, which has been rumbling for several months, recently intensified.

Earlier this month, Mr Costello accused the prime minister of reneging on a pledge to step down during his second term.

Mr Costello told reporters Mr Howard had 12 years previously said he would hand over the reins of the Liberal Party to Mr Costello during his second term.

But Mr Howard said no such agreement had been made.

After the prime minister's announcement, Mr Costello ruled out a challenge to Mr Howard.

"My consultation with my colleagues - and I think this is backed by public opinion - leads me to believe that they want me to continue to work as I have in the past as the deputy leader and treasurer," Mr Costello said.

Treasurer Peter Costello talks to reporters 11th July
Mr Costello has ruled out a leadership challenge

"And so I have decided that I will continue to work for the re-election of the government as the deputy leader and the treasurer."

The elections are due to take place in late 2007.

Mr Howard and Mr Costello have dominated Australian politics, and the Liberal Party, for the past decade.




SEE ALSO
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Australia hit by leadership row
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Australian PM set for Bush talks
13 May 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia unveils huge tax cuts
09 May 06 |  Business
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13 Apr 06 |  Asia-Pacific

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