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Colombians Choose Alvaro Uribe As New President

In Colombia, tough-talking independent candidate Alvaro Uribe has won his nation's presidential election in the first round of voting, the first time this has ever happened. Analysts say this has given Mr. Uribe an unprecedented mandate to carry out his program to end the nation's 38-year civil conflict.

The man chosen by Colombian voters to lead their nation is a 49-year-old attorney who studied at both Harvard University in the United States and Oxford in Britain.

Alvaro Uribe campaigned against what he described as an entrenched political class, but he has had a long career in politics, serving as mayor of Medellin, the nation's second-largest city, as well as governor of the state of Antioquia and as a federal senator.

The bespectacled Mr. Uribe has the look of a gentle scholar, but it was his tough approach to the nation's violence and insecurity that appealed to voters.

He favors a large increase in military spending and an expansion of police forces nationwide. Mr. Uribe would also establish a citizens' network throughout the country to support the military by providing information about armed groups.

Analysts differ on whether the hardline program presented by Mr. Uribe will be effective. The two main rebel groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia, or FARC, and the National Liberation Army, or ELN, both count on enormous sums of money produced by narcotics trafficking, as well as other criminal activities.

The estimated 17,000-fighters of the FARC are considered one of the most effective insurgent groups in Latin American history. Military experts also fear that the rebels, in anticipation of the build up Mr. Uribe has proposed may step up their operations and increase terrorist attacks in the cities.

The armed groups threatened voters in many areas of the country in an effort to stop them from voting for Mr. Uribe. Voter turnout was light in many rural areas and at least five municipalities people were unable to vote because the guerrillas had burned the ballots.

But the turnout in the principal cities was moderate-to-heavy and Mr. Uribe was the clear choice of the metropolitan voters.