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Cyprus' president loses 1st round
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Cyprus' incumbent president Taos Papadopoulos was defeated by two major rivals in the first round of the island state's presidential election on Sunday, official results show.


Former Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides won 33.51 percent of the ballots. He was followed by Parliament Speaker Demetris Christofias with 33.29 percent. The two will face a final showdown in a run-off on Feb. 24.


Papadopoulos, who led Greek Cypriots in 2004 into rejecting a comprehensive UN solution to the decades-long Cyprus problem, was eliminated with 31.79 percent of the votes.


The incumbent president's surprising defeat in the first round was interpreted as a clear signal that most Greek Cypriots desire for a change in policies and tactics applied to the reunification talks with the Turkish Cypriots living in the isolated north.


Voters from the district of Famagusta, whose hometown is still occupied by the Turkish army, gave less than 19 percent support to hardliner Papadopoulos. About 80 percent votes went to the other two major contenders who agree to relaunch the reunification talks immediately.


Papadopoulos has admitted his reelection failure, adding he fully respected people's decision. But he also called on Greek Cypriots to be vigilant over the negotiation process in the future.


Ioannis Kasoulides, who emerged as number one with a slim advantage over Christofias, urged Cypriots to join their forces.


"The time has come for all who believe Cyprus should become a modern European state to meet, to overcome whatever separated the people of Cyprus, especially over the past few years, to remember the fundamental values that join us," he said after the announcement of the official results.


Right-wing-backed Kasoulides served as Cyprus' Foreign Minister from April 1997 to February 2003. He was elected to the European Parliament in June 2004.


He has promised to act more actively in international for a with his good personal relationships with other European leaders, in an effort to gain more support for Cyprus' reunification bid.


Demetris Christofias, the Parliament Speaker and General Secretary of the left-wing AKEL, who supported Papadopoulos in the previous presidential election in 2003, bid for the presidency himself this time with a promise of a more flexible approach in the negotiations with the Turkish Cypriots.


Cyprus was divided in 1974 when Turkey militarily intervened and occupied the north of the island following a coup by a group of Greek officers who pushed for a union with Greece.


In 1983, the Turkish Cypriot authorities declared breakaway and set up the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognized only by Turkey.


In a referendum held in April 2004, Greek Cypriots under the leadership of Papadopoulos rejected the Annan Plan for fear that it would be in Turkey's favor, while Turkish Cypriot approved it.


After the presidential election, fresh efforts to revive the deadlocked reunification process are expected by both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities.


The United Nations and the European Union have also encouraged a new search for a viable solution to the decades-long Cyprus problem.


(Xinhua News Agency February 18, 2008)

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