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Berger Poised to Become Next President of Guatemala

Former Guatemala City Mayor Oscar Berger is poised to be Guatemalas next president. Preliminary vote counts give him a solid lead in Sundays presidential elections.

With the majority of the votes counted in Guatemalas provinces and all the votes counted in the capital and surrounding areas, Mr. Berger maintains a comfortable lead over rival Alvaro Colom.

Mayor Berger and Mr. Colom faced off in run-off round Sunday, after none of the 11 candidates in the November 9 presidential elections won the 50 percent of the votes needed to win the presidency.

Observers say the trend is irreversible at this point. However, Mr. Colom -- who had been confident of winning, despite poor showing in the opinion polls -- refused to concede, Sunday night.

Mr. Coloms spokesperson -- Ramiro MacDonald -- held a news conference, after preliminary results were released. He talked to journalists in a Guatemala

City hotel lobby, many floors below the penthouse salon his party had rented for an expected victory celebration. He says Mr. Colom is refusing to concede because he wants to wait for the final results, later Monday.

Mr. MacDonald says his party recognizes the trend is unfavorable, but says the party will wait till the end to comment. Still, Mr. Berger claimed victory and celebrated with his supporters outside his party headquarters, late Sunday night.

The new president assumes power January 14 and will face a challenging job leading a nation plagued with runaway crime, extreme poverty and high unemployment rates.