Australia May Cut Last Ties To Crown

Australia appears ready to cut its last links to the British monarchy, with most delegates at a constitutional convention saying they favor replacing Queen Elizabeth II as the nation’s head of state.

Prime Minister John Howard - a staunch monarchist - opened the two-week assembly Monday with a pledge to put any model for a republic to a national referendum by the end of 1999.

That could allow a new Australian head of state to open the Summer Olympics in Sydney in 2000 and lead the nation into the new millennium - and its second century of independence.

Australia has been independent since 1901, but like many other Commonwealth nations, it still recognizes Britain’s queen as its head of state. Republicans want constitutional change so the nation can choose its own head of state.

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