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World in brief

Winner in Nigeria pleads for peace

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 23, 2003


LAGOS, Nigeria -- Incumbent Olusegun Obasanjo won an overwhelming victory in Nigeria's presidential election, officials said Tuesday, but the main opposition party rejected the result as fraudulent and threatened massive protests.

Obasanjo moved quickly to build goodwill after an election marked by sporadic violence and allegations of polling misconduct, urging the opposition in a nationally televised address to accept his victory peacefully.

"Good politicians should be really good sportsmen, showing magnanimity and humility in victory and gallantry and good-naturedness in defeat," the former military ruler said.

The election for president and 36 governors was the biggest test for democracy and stability since Obasanjo was elected four years ago, ending 15 years of brutal military rule in Africa's most populous nation and the fifth largest oil exporter to the United States.

Obasanjo won 62 percent of the more than 42-million votes cast in the weekend polling, election commission chairman Abel Guobadia said. Former junta leader Muhammadu Buhari, drew 32 percent. Eighteen candidates split the other votes. More than 2.5-million votes were declared invalid.

Don Etiebet, chairman of Buhari's party, stormed into the election commission headquarters shortly before the winner was announced and said his party rejected the results.

He warned that opposition supporters "will act appropriately according to human nature."

"We do not need to tell the people what to do. They will know what to do when their mandate has been trampled upon," he said, without elaborating.

Nigeria has never seen a civilian government successfully hand over power to another. Though it is one of the world's largest oil exporters, it is desperately poor and has a history of coups and unrest.

There was only muted initial reaction to Obasanjo's win, and no immediate sign of public celebrations or protests in Nigerian cities, many of which were being heavily patrolled by police and army troops.

International monitors expressed concern about many reports of poll irregularities, including vote fraud, ballot-box stuffing and bribery.

The U.S. State Department said widespread claims of electoral misconduct appeared to be credible.

"We urge all parties with complaints of electoral malfeasance to present their evidence to the competent tribunals and for the tribunals the consider those complaints in a fair and transparent manner," spokesman Richard Boucher said.

Elsewhere . . .

COLOMBIA: The Colombian attorney general's office identified three U.S. military contractors captured by the nation's largest rebel group after their plane crashed more than two months ago in the southern jungle.

The three hostages were identified as Keith Donald Stansell, Marco Gonzalves and Thomas Howes. Their hometowns were not given.

BANGLADESH: Rescue workers have recovered more than 110 bodies after two ferry boats capsized during tropical storms on different Bangladeshi rivers, but hundreds of people remain missing, authorities said Tuesday.

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