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Page last updated at 06:23 GMT, Friday, 27 June 2008 07:23 UK

Colombia's Uribe calls for vote

President Alvaro Uribe gestures during a speech in Bogota, 26 June 2008
Mr Uribe and his government have denied offering bribes to lawmakers

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has called for a referendum to determine if there should be a new presidential poll amid a bribery scandal.

The move comes after the Supreme Court called for an investigation into the legality of his re-election in 2006.

A former politician had been convicted of taking a bribe to support the constitutional reform that granted Mr Uribe an unprecedented second term.

Mr Uribe enjoys a high popularity rating in Colombia.

"I am going to convene Congress so that it can produce as swiftly as possible legislation on a referendum, that would call the people to repeat the 2006 presidential election," Mr Uribe said in a nationally broadcast radio and television address.

"The right path has to be democratic rule," he said.

US ally

The bribery allegations date back to 2004, when a constitutional change approved by Congress eliminated the rule limiting Colombia's presidents to one term in office.

The Supreme Court sentenced former Congress member Yidis Medina to nearly four years of house arrest after she said senior government members offered her supporters jobs if she voted for the re-election bill.

Ms Medina went public when the government officials did not keep all their promises.

Charges are now expected to be filed against the officials who persuaded her to vote.

Congress is also investigating if Mr Uribe was directly involved in the bribery.

The Colombian president is seen as one of America's staunchest allies in South America and the US hopes to sign a free trade agreement with Bogota.

Mr Uribe, under whom crime has fallen and the economy has grown, is popular at home and won re-election in 2006 by a wide margin.

The next elections are scheduled for 2010.

Without another constitutional change, Mr Uribe will not able to stand in these elections.



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