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Sierra Leone Presidential Candidates Not Yet Confirmed

Sierra Leoneans are having to wait one more day to learn who will be on the final list of candidates in next month's presidential election. The election on May 14th will be the first since the end of the country's 10 year civil war. The deadline for the nomination of candidates has been postponed.

Tuesday was supposed to have been the deadline for political parties in Sierra Leone to nominate their candidates.

The deadline was extended by 24 hours after officials with the former rebel group, the Revolutionary United Front, turned up at the headquarters of the country's National Electoral Commission in the capital, Freetown, late Tuesday to ask for an extension.

RUF leaders said they had still not decided who will be their candidate.

The group, now known as the Revolutionary United Front Party, or RUFP, has created much suspense over who it will nominate. The group's leader, Foday Sankoh, is in jail and likely to remain there for the next several months, but RUFP officials have insisted they regard him as their candidate in the presidential election. Last week, the head of the National Election Commission, Walter Nicol, said Mr. Sankoh was ineligible to run because he had not registered to vote.

Sierra Leonean prosecutors have charged Mr. Sankoh with murder and other crimes. The accusations stem from an incident in May 2000, when his bodyguards opened fire on demonstrators outside his home, killing about 20 people. Officials say Mr. Sankoh is likely to remain in jail for several months pending the completion of his trial.

He is also expected to be indicted before a UN Special Court that is to try those suspected of committing crimes against humanity during the civil war. Incumbent President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah is widely favored to be reelected. Mr. Kabbah's Sierra Leone People's Party, or SLPP, has received the backing of the People's Democratic Party (PDP), which has a majority in parliament.

Analysts say the elections on May 14th will serve as a test of whether lasting peace has come to Sierra Leone following a war that killed tens of thousands of people and left thousands more maimed. Peace was officially declared in January after more than 40,000 combatants handed over their weapons under a UN sponsored disarmament program that began last May.

Last week, the UN Security Council extended the UN Mission in Sierra Leone's mandate for another six months. With more than 17,000 troops on the ground, UNAMSIL is the largest UN peacekeeping force in the world.