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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 December 2007, 06:10 GMT
Probe clears S Korean frontrunner
South Korea's presidential frontrunner Lee Myung-bak
Mr Lee is leading the race to become S Korea's next president
Prosecutors in South Korea have cleared presidential frontrunner Lee Myung-bak of involvement in a major fraud case.

Officials said that there was "no evidence" to link Mr Lee to a stock manipulation scandal involving a former business partner.

Mr Lee, the candidate for the conservative opposition Grand National Party (GNP), has a sizeable lead on his two rivals for the top job, polls show.

Analysts say the ruling could pave the way for victory in 19 December polls.

President Roh Moo-hyun, who leads a liberal coalition, ends his term in February. A victory by Mr Lee would see the GNP returned to power for the first time in 10 years.

'No evidence'

The case had involved Mr Lee's one-time business partner, Kim Gyeong-jun, who has been charged with share rigging and other offences.

"We found no evidence that candidate Lee colluded in the stock price manipulation," senior prosecutor Kim Hong-il said.

The former businessman welcomed the findings.

"I'm pleased that the truth finally prevailed," he said. "I'll humbly serve the people and meet their expectations."

Mr Lee faces independent Lee Hoi-chang and Chung Dong-young, candidate for the pro-government liberal United New Democratic Party (UNDP), in the presidential race.

A former Hyundai executive who has also served as mayor of Seoul, he has promised to revive South Korea's economy.

He has also pledged stronger ties with the US and a tougher line towards North Korea.

SEE ALSO
S Korea election contender picked
20 Aug 07 |  Asia-Pacific
South Korea contender drops out
16 Jan 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: South Korea
10 Nov 06 |  Country profiles
Timeline: South Korea
17 Oct 06 |  Country profiles

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