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Friday, 26 April, 2002, 18:09 GMT 19:09 UK
Mali's Muslim leaders back ex-premier
Presidential hopeful Mande Sidibe waves to supporters
Candidates made a last drive for votes on Friday
Muslim leaders in Mali used Friday prayers to urge their followers to vote for former Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in Sunday's presidential election.

However, the BBC's Joan Baxter in Bamako says that many worshippers emerged from the prayers feeling angry, saying the mosque was not the place for politics.

Ibrahim Boubacar Keita
Keita is reputedly one of Mali's richest men
Friday is the last day of campaigning ahead of the poll in which a record 24 candidates are vying to succeed Alpha Oumar Konare, who has served two terms as president.

Islamic leaders are insisting the 95% of Mali's population who are Muslim, vote for Mr Keita - as the Muslim candidate.

A powerful collective of 20 Islamic associations has over the past few days been using radio broadcasts to urge a vote for Mr Keita.

He defected to the opposition after six years as prime minister in 2000.

Festive evening

However, not all Muslims are happy with the choice, arguing that Islam suffered during Mr Keita's term in office, when lotteries and casinos were introduced to the country.

Mr Keita is reputedly one of the richest men in Mali.

Malian women in traditional dress
Malians go to the polls on Sunday

After prayers, people streamed towards last-minute election rallies for what they expected to be a festive evening.

Authorities concede that holding Sunday's elections will be a huge logistical challenge, given the size of the country and the fact that two-thirds of it is desert.

Several nomadic groups are among the electorate, and they will be voting at mobile polling booths - camels or vehicles loaded with ballot boxes.

If no candidate wins 50% of the votes, a run-off vote between the top two candidates will be held on 12 May.

The BBC's Joan Baxter on Focus on Africa
"When people came out of the mosques, there was tension in the air"
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