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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 November 2005, 10:16 GMT
Vote count under way in Liberia

Votes are being counted in Liberia's presidential run-off - the first since the end of 14 years of civil war.

Ex-football star George Weah is facing Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf - seeking to be Africa's first elected female leader.

Correspondents say turnout seemed more subdued than in the first round, when voters swamped polling booths.

With much of the country's infrastructure destroyed during the war, final results could take up to two weeks to come in from remote areas.

Preliminary results though, are starting to be released.

Journalist Emery Ghekan in Ganta in Nimba County told the BBC that Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has done surprisingly well there finishing ahead of George Weah - despite coming fourth there in the first round of voting.

"All 11 polling stations posted their results on the wall and gave her a commanding lead," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

He said it could give her a real edge in the county, which backed George Weah in the first round.

'Very confident'

Voting went smoothly and, according to UN peacekeepers who are monitoring the poll, there were no reports of trouble across the country.

The BBC's Mark Doyle in Monrovia says the race between the two candidates is too close to call.

As he cast his vote in the capital, Monrovia, Mr Weah said his first priority would be "peace... bringing people together".

Composite of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and George Weah

Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf voted under guard from UN peacekeepers in the former rebel headquarters of Tubmanburg, 80km west on Monrovia.

"I'm very confident that the Liberian people will vote for me," she said.

She has pledged to form a government of national unity if she wins.

The UN troops were being supported by some 3,000 newly trained Liberian police who were deployed last week.

Tough task

Correspondents say the past few months of campaigning have been remarkably peaceful.

The queues were not as long as on the first round of voting last month. They also moved more quickly now that the voting is less complicated with just two candidates instead of 22 and no legislative elections.

Some Liberians have said they would not vote after the elimination of their preferred candidate.

Guide to Liberia and its recent turbulent history

Recent heavy rains have increased the number of inaccessible areas but officials say all the necessary material has been sent out across the country.

These elections are designed to cement the transformation of Liberia to a democratic state after a two-year transition period.

Correspondents say whoever wins will have the enormous task of rebuilding a country shattered by the long war.

Many buildings in Monrovia were destroyed and there is no mains electricity supply or running water.

Only 20% of the population can read and write.

Gender divide

Mr Weah is the best-known Liberian in the world and came top in the first round of voting, with 28% of ballots cast.

He represents success for a country blighted by decades of war and has the support of most young men - especially the ex-combatants.

Our correspondent says as a political candidate his feel-good factor is immense. But his opponents say that is as far as it goes.

They say he is young, inexperienced and surrounded by political opportunists.

They say Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf, 66, a former World Bank economist is better qualified for the job.

The grandmother nicknamed the "Iron lady" received 20% of the vote in the first round and is popular with women and the educated elite.

See the people of Liberia voting in elections

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