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British Parties Seek Partners After Inconclusive Election

Negotiations to form the next British government are underway following parliamentary elections in which opposition Conservatives gained the most seats, but not enough to immediately take power.

With nearly all the votes counted, Conservatives have won just over 300 seats in the 650-seat parliament, while Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labor party is trailing at 255. Both are far short of the 326 seats needed for an absolute majority.

That means the third-place Liberal Democrats, who have secured 56 seats, have become a sought-after coalition partner.

The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, said the Conservatives should have the first chance to try to form a government since they have won the most votes.

Conservative leader David Cameron acknowledged policy differences with the Liberal Democrats, but offered to work together with the party on areas of agreement.

Prime Minister Brown said if talks between the two parties do not succeed, he too would be willing to work with Clegg and the Liberal Democrats. He also promised to introduce legislation to reform the electoral system - one of their major demands.

With no clear winner, Britain faces its first "hung parliament" - one in which no political party has an overall majority - since 1974.

Conservative leader Cameron said Friday he believes the Labor government has "lost its mandate" to govern and that Britain is ready for a change of leadership.

The new government will have to lead Britain's recovery from the global economic crisis and develop a plan for cutting the country's record $236-billion deficit.

Some analysts fear a political stalemate could delay action on the deficit and hamper recovery efforts.

Separately Friday, Britain's election commission said it will investigate reports of hundreds of people waiting in line to vote being locked out of polling stations when they closed.

In 1974, Prime Minister Harold Wilson led a minority government for the Labor Party in Britain. He called a second general election later that year. That election gave Mr. Wilson's government a majority of three seats in parliament.

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