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President Expected to be Re-Elected in Lithuanian Runoff - 2003-01-05


Lithuania's president is favored to be re-elected as voters return to the polls for a runoff election.

Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus is the strong favorite to win a second five-year term, largely because the small Baltic nation's economy has remained strong under his leadership.

But the president is also credited with two key foreign policy successes: recent invitations for Lithuania to join both the European Union and the NATO military alliance.

Mr. Adamkus, 76, spent most of his life in the United States after fleeing Soviet occupation forces during World War II.

His main rival is former Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas, a onetime stunt pilot 30 years younger, who has campaigned hard as a youthful alternative to Mr. Adamkus.

Mr. Paksus has flown all over the small country by helicopter to attend rallies and other public events.

In contrast President Adamkus kept a low profile, saying he was busy with his official duties, which included hosting U.S. President George W. Bush on a brief visit in November.

Lithuania has worked hard to build its economy as well as establish links with Western counties after regaining its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, along with neighboring Latvia and Estonia.

The three Baltic states have long had difficult relations with Russia, which until recently strongly objected to their entering NATO.

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