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US election outcome unclear

The outcome of the presidential contest in the United States remains too close to call. The decisive vote in the state of Florida puts the Democrat contender, Al Gore, and the Republican challenger, George W. Bush, so close that a recount will be needed.

Gore conceded defeat in a telephone conversation with Bush, before retracting the concession. Gore's campaign chief, William Daley, told supporters in Nashville, Tennessee, that projections of a victory for Bush were "premature".

The 25 electoral college votes in Florida would put the winner in that state above the 270 votes needed to secure victory.

Even before the latest confusion over the results, the 2000 presidential election was considered to be the closest fought contest since John F. Kennedy beat Richard Nixon in 1960.

If Bush wins, the Republicans will be back in the White House for the first time in eight years. His victory would make him the first presidential son since John Quincy Adams in 1825 to follow his father into the White House.

A victory would also have huge personal significance for the 54-year-old governor of Texas. It was Bill Clinton who unseated George Bush senior in 1992, and Bush relished the idea of defeating Clinton's vice-president, Gore.

Bush dealt blows to the Democrats with early victories in Gore's home state of Tennessee as well as Arkansas - the home of the outgoing president, Bill Clinton. For Gore, on the other hand, there were important victories in California, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

In Congress, the Republicans have retained their majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

One of the most eagerly awaited results was in New York, where the First Lady, Hillary Clinton, beat the Republican, Rick Lazio, in the Senate election by an estimated half-million vote margin.

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