Australia's foreign minister resigned today in a bitter rift with Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who may poll party lawmakers next week on who should lead the country. Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd announced his resignation during a news conference in Washington, where he was visiting on official business, and he said the relentless speculation that he planned to seize power from Gillard had become a distraction. "I can only serve as foreign minister if I have the confidence of Prime Minister Gillard and her senior ministers," Rudd said.
Gillard ousted Rudd as prime minister in June 2010 in an internal coup, and their center-left Labor Party scraped through elections later that year to lead a minority government. Polls now suggest Labor would suffer a devastating defeat, but Gillard maintains she has her colleagues' support. Gillard will hold a news conference tomorrow to "make a further statement" on Rudd's resignation. Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported she will announce a leadership ballot of Labor lawmakers to be held at Parliament House on Monday. A Labor senior strategist said he spoke to Rudd before his announcement and that Rudd is likely to challenge Gillard. (Read more Kevin Rudd stories.)