"Australia's new leader Julia Gillard voiced her commitment to the Afghan war Saturday after the country lost its 17th soldier in the conflict, just weeks before she is expected to call elections. The 23-year-old was killed and another soldier was wounded after they hit an improvised explosive device in Uruzgan province's Chora Valley shortly after midnight Australian time (1400 GMT) Defence Minister John Faulkner said. An experienced serviceman on his third tour of duty in Afghanistan, the soldier was rushed to the base hospital at Tarin Kowt but was pronounced dead on arrival, Faulkner said. ""Australia has now lost 17 of our finest soldiers in Afghanistan,"" he said. Six Australian soldiers have died in the conflict in a little over a month, increasing pressure on the centre-left Labor government as it prepares to go to the polls."