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HEAVY SECURITY IN TENSE GABON AFTER BONGO RE-ELECTION VALIDATED

Libreville’s nearly empty streets were under the watch of a heavy police and military presence on Saturday after Gabon’s top court upheld President Ali Bongo’s re-election in bitterly disputed polls.

Security force checkpoints dotted routes into the capital’s centre, helicopters hovered overhead and elite troops protected the presidential palace, but no violence had been reported.

The Constitutional Court, while partially changing the results of the close August 27 vote, said Bongo maintained a lead over his former ally-turned-opponent Jean Ping, at a televised public hearing overnight Friday-Saturday.

Bongo took 50.66 percent of the vote against 47.24 percent for Ping, the court ruled, putting his margin at 11,000 — higher than the less than 6,000 initially announced.

Concern has been growing that a ruling in favour of Bongo, 57, could spark more of the unrest Gabon saw after the president was announced to have won re-election.

In his first comments after the ruling, Bongo appealed for "political dialogue" with the opposition to steer the country out of the crisis triggered by the announcement of his victory.

"I intend to very quickly bring together the conditions for a political dialogue open to all those who wish (to take part)," Bongo said in a speech broadcast on television.

He called on political leaders and defeated candidates to work with him "guided by the will to place the greater good of the nation above our individual and partisan interests."

Jimirasire

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