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EU Observers: Yemeni Elections Credible Despite Report of Violations


European Union observers in Yemen say Wednesday's municipal and presidential elections were credible, despite reports of violations.

EU mission representatives Thursday said some polling stations had breaches of vote secrecy and instances of underage voters. However, they praised the elections overall.

Yemen's election commission says an initial vote count shows President Ali Abdullah Saleh with about 80 percent of the vote, nearly five times more votes than his principal challenger, former oil minister Faisal bin Shamlan.

Representatives for Shamlan's campaign insist it is still too early to announce the results.

More than nine million Yemenis were eligible to cast ballots. Authorities kept polling stations open an extra two hours to accommodate a heavy turnout.

Nearly 90,000 troops and police were deployed at polling stations throughout the country. Authorities say at least five people died in scattered election-related violence.

President Saleh has ruled Yemen since 1978, 12 years before two Yemeni states merged to form the present republic. Yemen has been a steady ally of the United States in the war on terror during the past five years, and government forces have clashed with Islamic militants operating in the country.

Yemen also is known as the ancestral home of al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden. Last week, Yemeni security forces said they broke up a plot to attack oil and gas installations in the country. Four suspected al-Qaida members have been arrested in the case.

Six years ago, al-Qaida members in Yemen attacked a U.S. Navy ship (the U.S.S. Cole) anchored in the port of Aden, killing 17 sailors.

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