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Last Updated: Monday, 9 April 2007, 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK
E Timor holds presidential polls
Voters line up at a polling station in Dili
Voters queued from early in the morning to cast their ballots
Voting has taken place in East Timor's first presidential election since independence from Indonesia in 2002.

Many are hoping the vote will help resolve political tensions and instability in the troubled nation.

Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, is one of eight candidates seeking to replace Xanana Gusmao, who is stepping down.

Clashes last summer between rival military factions resulted in street violence that left 30 people dead.

"I'm happy because we have the right to vote for people to choose the right president," said Mr Gusmao as he waited to cast his vote.

Mr Gusmao has said he intends to run for prime minister in general elections set for June that will decide a new parliament and government.

'Free and fair'

Monday's vote was being seen as a trial run for that poll.

Turnout was high with queues reported outside polling stations from before dawn.

Mr Ramos-Horta casts his vote
Mr Ramos-Horta faces tough competition for the presidency
Just over half of East Timor's population of one million was eligible to vote.

Election observers reported few problems but extra ballot papers had to be delivered by UN helicopter to several districts where they ran out with people still waiting to vote.

"Despite some flaws, despite some intimidation, it can be said to be free and fair," said Mr Ramos-Horta as he waited to vote.

He has been seen as the leading contender to replace Mr Gusmao.

But Mr Ramos-Horta faces challenges from the powerful Fretilin Party chairman Francisco "Lu-Olo" Guterres and Fernando "Lasama" De Araujo, the chairman of the opposition Democrat Party.

Official results are not expected until 16 April, but a spokesman for the electoral commission said preliminary results could begin to emerge on Tuesday.

Analysts say an outright victory by one candidate is unlikely, which would mean a run-off vote next month.

UN support

Some 3,000 international police and troops were on the streets to provide security for the polls.

These troops - mainly Australian - have been in East Timor since June last year to help stabilise the country after the clashes, which caused thousands to flee their homes.

The United Nations had been planning to leave the country but is now back in force helping to run this election.

The UN expects to be in East Timor now for many years, says the BBC's Jonathan Head in the capital Dili.

But however smoothly this election goes, our correspondent says, restoring effective government will be a long-term task.

Last year's crisis re-opened deep splits in East Timorese society, many dating back to the long war against Indonesia's rule.

There are fears over how well losing candidates will accept the result of this poll and June's parliamentary elections.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
People in East Timor queue to vote



SEE ALSO
East Timor election 'manipulated'
06 Apr 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Poll violence flares in E Timor
30 Mar 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Campaigning begins in East Timor
23 Mar 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: East Timor
17 Oct 06 |  Country profiles

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