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Monday, 27 May, 2002, 23:11 GMT 00:11 UK
New Colombian leader calls for help
President-elect Alvaro Uribe of Colombia
Mr Uribe spoke to journalists after his victory
The president-elect of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, has called for help from the United States and the United Nations to find a way out of his country's long-lasting civil war.

Alvaro Uribe, a 49-year-old lawyer standing as an independent, won a first round election victory on Sunday with 53% of the vote.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, he called on the United States to step up military aid to help combat drug-trafficking and prevent arms shipments reaching Colombia's rebel groups.

He also said he would approach the United Nations to see if they could help negotiate with left-wing guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries.

Alvaro Uribe
Uribe has survived 15 attempts on his own life

The US government has welcomed Mr Uribe's election.

A State Department official, Susan Pittmann, said the Unites States hoped "to advance our shared goals of eliminating the scourges of narcotics trafficking and terrorism, improving human rights conditions and ensuring a prosperous future for all Colombia."

Latin American governments have also publicly welcomed Mr Uribe's victory, but the BBC's Peter Greste in Bogota says that in private Colombia's neighbours fear any escalation of the violence could spill over and affect them.

Mr Uribe's landslide victory is seen as an overwhelming endorsement by the voters for his plans to increase military spending and confront the rebel groups, according to the BBC correspondent.

Mr Uribe, who will succeed incumbent President Andres Pastrana in August, promised his government would provide "democratic security for all".

Election boycott

Official figures for the election show that only 46% of registered voters turned out, a low figure even for Colombia.

Civil war
About half of national territory controlled by armed groups
Leftist guerrillas number about 22,000
About 3,500 people are killed every year
An earlier civil war, in 1948-58, cost about 300,000 lives

The main left-wing rebel group, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), had declared a boycott of the polls and tried to disrupt them with car bombs and threats.

But there was little actual violence on polling-day as the government deployed over 200,000 police and soldiers.

The National Registrar's office in Bogota said the FARC caused difficulties in fewer than 10 of 1,000 municipalities.

Mr Uribe has denied that he will favour the right-wing paramilitaries of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) over the leftist rebels, insisting he will deal harshly with both.

But the AUC sent him congratulations on Sunday, hailing his victory as a "slap in the face for leftist guerrillas".

Breaking the mould

By securing more than 53% of the vote against the other 10 candidates in the first round, Mr Uribe avoided the need for a run-off.

His nearest rival, Horacio Serpa, attracted only 31% of the vote and immediately resigned as leader of the Liberal Party.

Colombian army soldier
More than 200,000 soldiers and police were deployed for the vote
The Conservative Party of current president Andres Pastrana is in such disarray that it did not field a candidate in the election.

Mr Uribe also advocates imaginative new social policies, such as a plan to turn Colombia's vast coca fields back into jungle and loans for the unemployed to set up in business.

Another proposal is to cut the number of parliamentarians by almost half as well as cutting their salaries, which Mr Uribe says are excessive.


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28 May 02 | Media reports
27 May 02 | Americas
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