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Wednesday, 13 December, 2000, 08:56 GMT
Embattled Gore urged to quit
Al Gore is facing growing pressure to throw in the towel in his long fight for the White House, after the US Supreme Court dealt him what appears to be a decisive blow.
The federal judges in Washington, in effect, ruled out any further recounts of disputed votes in Florida, robbing Mr Gore of his last chance to find the extra support he needs to win the state and the presidential election.
Mr Gore is said to be studying the court ruling carefully before making a statement on Wednesday, but he is already being urged by some senior Democrats to use the occasion to concede to Mr Bush.
"Clearly the election has come to an end," said the Democrat senator for New Jersey, Robert Torricelli.
"The recount process... is inconsistent with the minimum procedures necessary to protect the fundamental right of each voter," said the majority ruling.
"It is obvious that the recount cannot be conducted in compliance with the requirements of equal protection and due process without substantial additional work," it added.
"Although we may never know with certainty the identity of the winner of this year's presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear," wrote Justice John Paul Stevens.
"It is the nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law."
The Federal Supreme Court, which blocked the recounts, is Republican-dominated; the Florida Supreme Court, which had tried to allow them, has a majority of Democrats.
Analysts said the latest judgement has all but transformed Mr Bush into president-elect.
"They are of course very pleased and gratified."
Behind the publicly-statesmanlike response, Republicans are reported to be celebrating what they see as a total victory.
But the BBC's Rob Watson in Texas says their tactic now is to wait for the Democrats to put pressure on Al Gore to concede.
Democrat pressure for Mr Gore to give way had been growing even before the court ruling, and has now intensified.
"He should act now and concede,"said Democratic National Committee Chairman Ed Rendell.
But Mr Gore was urged to fight on by the Rev Jesse Jackson.
"This is a narrow, ideologically-driven decision with extreme politics that, in the end, deprives the court itself of moral authority," he said.
Tension had been rising in Washington as the judges neared the end of a second day of discussions.
They ruled there had been constitutional problems with the move, because there was no standard way to treat the hand recounting, and therefore unequal treatment of different papers.
But the court's margin shrunk to 5-4 in deciding what to do about it, the majority voting there was no time for further recounts before the Electoral College met.
The case was formally handed back to Florida, but the BBC's Washington correspondent Paul Reynolds says that in practice there is no time or legal room for the court to act.
The presidential process is now expected to move out of the courts and into the electoral college, which meets in state capitals across the country on Monday to select the next president.
Florida's 25 crucial votes - enough to take either man to the finishing post - now look almost certain to be cast for Mr Bush, ending the US's longest and most divisive election count.