Last rival pulls out of Liberal race

Tue Dec 9, 2008 1:12pm EST
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - The last rival of former Harvard don Michael Ignatieff pulled out of the leadership race to head Canada's opposition Liberal Party on Tuesday, making an early confrontation with the Conservative government less likely.

Former Ontario Premier Bob Rae, who had advocated trying to topple the minority Conservative government, took his hat out of the race and left Ignatieff as the only candidate left.

Ignatieff, who has opposed any automatic vote against the Conservatives, will now be made interim leader, possibly as early as next week, and is expected to be named permanent leader in May.

He is to the right of both Rae and current Liberal leader Stephane Dion, who said on Monday he would step down as soon as a replacement is chosen. In October, Dion led the Liberals to their worst electoral showing in more than a century.

(Reporting by Randall Palmer; editing by Peter Galloway)