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Australian opposition leader quits

Mark Latham has resigned as leader of the ALP and is leaving politics.
Mark Latham

(CNN) -- The leader of Australia's opposition Labor Party, Mark Latham, has resigned due to ill health.

Latham, 43, was hospitalized with pancreatitis just before last year's elections, which he lost to Prime Minister John Howard.

He has been ill again recently, suffering another bout of illness that raised leadership questions within his own party.

"Our conclusion is that I should look after my health and pursue normal life outside of politics," Latham said in a statement on his party's Web site on Tuesday.

Latham was perceived as young and energetic, but also inexperienced and sometimes undisciplined.

He was considered an aggressive character both in and out of parliament, who once infamously broke a taxi driver's arm after an altercation over a disputed fare.

He also made enemies outside of his country after announcing he would bring Australia's troops in Iraq home by Christmas last year, opposing Howard's "policy of compliance" in supporting the U.S. in Iraq.

This drew strong criticism from U.S. President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell, who urged Latham to think what it would be like for Australia to be without an alliance with the United States.

"I think that would be disastrous. It would be a disastrous decision for the leader of a great country like Australia to say that, 'We're pulling out,'" Bush said after being questioned on Latham's foreign affair policies last year.

Senior Labor figures now say former opposition leader Kim Beazley, who led Labor to election defeats in 1998 and 2001, will replace Latham, while some believe Labor frontbencher Kevin Rudd is a possibility.

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