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Friday, 10 May, 2002, 12:32 GMT 13:32 UK
Mali's opposition backs general
Ibrahim Boubacar Keita
Keita has accepted the official results
A coalition of opposition parties in Mali has given its backing to the leading presidential candidate - former military leader General Amadou Toumani Toure - in the decisive second round of voting on Sunday.

The decision of the "Espoir 2002" grouping, led by former Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, makes Mr Toure a clear favourite, correspondents say.


Our Espoir 2002 alliance has decided to support my brother Amadou Toumani Toure

Ibrahim Boubacar Keita
Mr Toure is facing Soumaila Cisse of the ruling Adema party after the first round of voting was marred by allegations of fraud.

The "Espoir 2002" coalition accused the interior ministry of being biased in favour of Mr Cisse - an allegation rejected by the authorities.

But Mr Keita has now apparently accepted the results, which were officially released on Thursday by the Constitutional Court.

"You know I'm a law-abiding person. The court has (followed) the law.

"I have recognised that... and our Espoir 2002 alliance has decided to support my brother Amadou Toumani Toure," Mr Keita told the BBC.

'Irregularities'

The court accepted that there had been irregularities and annulled a quarter of the votes cast, but said this did not invalidate the result.

Mr Toure won 28.70%, compared to Mr Cisse's 21.30%, down from the 23% he had been given in provisional results released by the interior ministry.

Mr Keita got 21.03% - just 4,000 votes behind the all-important second place.

Amadou Toumani Toure
Toure is now a clear favourite

The US-based Carter Center also criticized the first-round vote, citing a "significant number of irregularities."

Mr Keita has the support of some Islamic groups in an overwhelmingly Muslim country where religion has traditionally been kept out of politics

Out-going President Alpha Oumar Konare is stepping aside after serving a maximum two five-year terms.

Although Mali is often cited abroad as a model of democracy, the 1997 presidential election was cancelled after wide-scale problems in voter card distribution and the election register.

A new poll was held, but it was largely boycotted by the opposition.

See also:

09 May 02 | Africa
Thousands of Mali votes cancelled
07 May 02 | Africa
Mali court reviews 'vote-rigging'
28 Apr 02 | Africa
Mali votes for new president
15 Apr 02 | Africa
Timbuktu - city of legends
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