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Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd appointed Australia's foreign minister

SYDNEY (AP) — Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was named Saturday as Australia's new foreign minister, a high-profile and coveted posting that will be seen as a consolation prize for being ousted from the leadership.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who narrowly won elections last month just weeks after toppling Rudd in an internal Labor Party insurrection, made the appointment as part of several changes to her Cabinet.

Rudd, 53, is well qualified for the foreign minister post. Before entering politics he was a senior diplomat and spent years working and studying in China — one of Australia's most important trade and diplomatic partners. He speaks fluent Mandarin.

He replaces Stephen Smith who was foreign minister for three years while Rudd was prime minister. Smith was named defense minister in Saturday's shuffling of posts.

Gillard was Rudd's deputy until June, when she unseated him in an internal party vote, saying she believed the government had lost its way. She announced a handful of major policy changes, then called elections that resulted in an almost drawn result with the conservative coalition.

Gillard last week completed a deal with independents and minor party lawmakers that allowed her to lead Australia's first minority government in almost 70 years.

Gillard publicly promised Rudd a senior post in her government if it were re-elected.

After initially being blamed for a series of leaks that damaged Labor during the election campaign, Rudd campaigned heavily for Gillard, helping to stem a strong swing in votes away from the government in his home state of Queensland.

Gillard announced the Cabinet changes in a statement Saturday that listed Rudd as foreign minister but did not otherwise mention him — a likely sign that she does not want Rudd's appointment to be viewed as a special case.

Rudd said he was honored to be made foreign minister and played down the potential for differences with Gillard.

"There are national interests in this country which extend far beyond the personal interests of any individual, that applies to me as well," Rudd said at a function with U.S. Ambassador Jeff Bleich in Canberra marking the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

The key finance and economic job of treasurer was retained by Wayne Swan. Sen. Penny Wong, who had been the minister responsible for climate change issues, was named finance minister.

(This version CORRECTS in paragraph 5 that Gillard replaced Rudd in June not July)