Labor elects Brown as new chief

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MANCHESTER, England (Agence France-Presse) — Gordon Brown succeeded Tony Blair as leader of Britain’s governing Labor Party yesterday, the first step in the transfer of power that will make him prime minister this week.

Mr. Brown was elected unopposed, as neither of the two prospective candidates who hoped to run against him could get enough support.

“Leadership is an awesome responsibility,” Mr. Brown, 56, told the Labor Party conference in Manchester in northwestern England after accepting his new job with “humility and pride.”

He vowed to learn a lesson from Mr. Blair“s unpopular decision to go to war in Iraq.

“In Iraq, which all of us accept has been a divisive issue for our party and our country, in Afghanistan and in the Middle East, we will meet our international obligations,” he told Labor members.

Mr. Brown will formally become prime minister on Wednesday. In Britain, the head of the largest party in Parliament becomes prime minister. Governing parties can change the leader midterm without calling a general election.

Mr. Blair, who joined Parliament at the same time as Brown in 1983, announced the election to cheers and loud applause from Labor lawmakers, grass-roots members and affiliated trade unions.

Mr. Brown, whose image in the press is of a serious-minded minister, allowed himself to smile when the result was announced, as his wife, Sarah, looked on.

Mr. Blair, just returned from meeting with leaders of the European Union in Brussels on Saturday — his last international engagement as prime minister — and with Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican, paid tribute in introducing Mr. Brown.

“He is a man who is strong and sound in his convictions, true to his principles, a man with every quality to mark him out as a great prime minister of our country,” he said.

Mr. Brown takes over from Mr. Blair, who has served as Labor leader since 1994 and took it from being an unfashionable left-wing party riven by infighting to an electable center-left outfit.

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