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Haiti Vote Counting Could Take Until Friday


U.N. officials say it could take up to three days to finish tabulating votes in Haiti's presidential and legislative election. The vote is being called a significant step forward for one of the western hemisphere's poorest countries.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Wednesday hailed the large turnout in Haiti's long-delayed elections. His statement, read by Mr. Annan's spokesman Stefane Dujarric, called on politicians and the public to respect the results, whatever they may be. "It will be essential that all political and social actors come together in a spirit of national reconciliation and dialogue in order to build strong democratic institutions and an inclusive governance system," he said.

The spokesman called the election a significant step forward for Haiti. But in a country where some ballots are being transported by mule, he cautioned that vote counting was going slowly. "From the ground, the U.N. mission in Haiti says the tabulation of the results will take at least three days, and in the meantime it is calling for calm and for all Haitians to remain patient," he said.

U.N. officials in Port au-Prince have said they were not aware of any reports of major irregularities or election-day fraud.

U.N. peacekeeping chief Jean-Marie Guehenno earlier called the successful election a sign of hope for Haiti. But Guehenno told VOA the impoverished Caribbean country will need continuing international help for years, if not decades, to come.

More than nine thousand blue-helmeted U.N. peacekeepers helped Haitian police provide security for the election, and more than half of Haiti's three-point-five million registered voters are believed to have cast ballots.

If no candidate wins a majority, a runoff between the top two vote-getters will be held March 19.