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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Sierra Leone's leader urges calm

Sierra Leone's outgoing president has appealed for calm and placed the police on alert as the results of Saturday's polls are counted.

"I have instructed the police... to deal firmly with any threats to the peace and security," Ahmad Tejan Kabbah said in a statement on national radio.

He made the comments as supporters of rival candidates used unofficial results to claim victory.

The poll is the second since the end of a civil war that killed thousands.

The electoral commission head Christiana Thorpe also urged to all sides for restraint as counting continued.

Sierra Leone president Desist from making provocative and inflammatory statements against each other
President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah

"We are really appealing to the political party leaders present here to please tell your people to exercise patience," she said.

"We also say, if you allow us to work, you will get it fast. If you don't allow us to work, it will take as long as it takes, for us to get credible results."

International election observers have declared the polls free, fair and credible.

Sierra Leone emerged in 2001 from a decade-long civil war, during which an estimated 50,000 people died.

Run-off

President Kabbah urged people to "desist from making provocative and inflammatory statements against each other".

Full official results are not expected for several days, but unofficial results are being declared on local radio stations.

"Until such time that I hand over power to the legitimate successor, I will not stand idly by and allow evil-minded people to take the law into their hands and destroy what the country has achieved since the end of the war," AFP news agency quotes Mr Kabbah as saying.

Presidential candidates need 55% of the vote in order to avoid a run-off, which correspondents say is quite likely.

Three candidates enjoy considerable support.

These are: Solomon Berewa, vice-president of the governing Sierra Leone People's Party; Ernest Bai Koroma, of the All People's Congress and a new political party led by former minister Charles Margai.

There had been tension in the run-up to the elections and some feared violence but the police reported no major incidents.

The previous poll in 2002 was organised by the United Nations, which still had peacekeepers on the ground.

This time, Sierra Leoneans were in charge.

Correspondents say the large turnout on Saturday was a sign of the population's determination to see Sierra Leone turn its back on years of instability and a civil war.

Seven presidential candidates are vying to replace Mr Kabbah, who is stepping down after serving the maximum two terms.

More than 500 candidates are vying for just over 100 parliamentary seats.

BBC NEWS | Africa | Sierra Leone's leader urges calm