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Niger Votes on New Constitution


Vote counting is under way in Ivory Coast, where citizens hope Sunday's presidential election will finally reunite the country, split by a 2002 civil war.

Long lines were reported at some polling stations. Many voters said they were eager to cast a ballot in the country's first presidential election in 10 years.

No major problems have been reported.

Fourteen presidential candidates were on the ballot, including incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo. His main challengers were former president Henri Konan Bedie, who was overthrown in a 1999 coup, and former prime minister Alassane Ouattara.

Many Ivorians say they fear that losing candidates will reject the election results and set off a new wave of violence.

Mr. Gbagbo's term ended in 2005. But, until Sunday's vote, new elections were repeatedly postponed because of civil war, failure to disarm rebels in the north, and disputes over voter registration.

A 9,000-member security force of U.N. peacekeepers and French troops is standing by in case of trouble..

If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, there will be a runoff between the top two finishers.

A 2002 civil war split Ivory Coast into a rebel-controlled north and a government-run south. The two sides agreed to reunite the country by dismantling a buffer zone separating north from south, to integrate rebel forces into the national armed forces, and to hold elections.

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