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Runoff Needed in Croatian Presidential Election

Croatia's incumbent President Stjepan Mesic has narrowly failed to win an outright victory in Sunday's election. Mr. Mesic will face a cabinet minister in a run-off ballot in two weeks time.

With votes from nearly all precincts counted, incumbent President Stjepan Mesic won 49 percent of the votes cast, just one percent short of an outright majority.

He will now face Jadranka Kosor, deputy prime minister in the conservative Croatian Democratic Union government, who finished second with a little over 20 percent of the vote. The run-off is scheduled to be held January 16.

Mr. Mesic's candidacy is backed by three main center-left opposition parties that were defeated in the parliamentary elections in 2003.

Analysts predict the 70-year-old Mr. Mesic, who is widely associated at home and abroad with democratic reforms, will win a second term. He says he wants to oversee Croatia's accession talks with the European Union, which begin in March.

Mr. Mesic has made enemies among Croatia's nationalists by insisting that those who committed crimes during the Balkans wars in the 1990s must be punished.

He was elected to his first term in 2000, following the death of his autocratic predecessor, Franjo Tudjman.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.