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Wednesday, October 28, 1998 Published at 19:17 GMT

World: Europe

Muslim reinstated as Miss Croatia

The Muslim winner will star after all

A Muslim girl who had her title of Miss Croatia taken away will represent the country at this year's Miss World beauty pageant after all.

Lejla Sehovic: "Now everything is okay"
Lejla Sehovic won the Miss Croatia contest, only to lose it five days later when the Croatian organiser, Milan Seckovic, declared irregularities and called for a second vote.

A Roman Catholic, Ivana Petkovic was pronounced the new winner.

After an international outcry that the competition had been rigged, the organisers and Miss Sehovic's lawyer reached a compromise.

[ image: Former runner-up Ivana Petkovic will now be Miss Croatia next year.]
Former runner-up Ivana Petkovic will now be Miss Croatia next year.
Under the deal, struck after Miss Sehovic's lawyer threatened a lawsuit for racial discrimination, Miss Sehovic will represent Croatia this year, while Miss Petkovic, will go next year.

Miss Sehovic told the BBC it had been a difficult time:

"It's been a really hard time for me but now everything is okay," she said.

The story has provoked a scandal in Croatia. Independent media said the nationalist government would not allow a Muslim to represent the majority Catholic country, which has bitter memories of fighting Muslims during the break up of Yugoslavia.

Although things may have been smoothed over for Miss Sehovic, she said she could not imagine many other candidates wanting to step forward for Miss Croatia in the future.

Our Religious Affairs Correspondent Jane Little says it is an ugly tale that has not done the image of the Miss World Competition any good.

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