Saturday, March 04, 2006

Solis recognizes Arias' win in Costa Rica

(AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) - The chief rival of former president Oscar Arias (pictured) acknowledged on Friday that Arias had won Costa Rica's razor-close Feb. 5 elections, and called on his countrymen to recognize the defeat.

Candidate Otton Solis — who lost by just 18,167 votes out of some 1.4 million ballots cast, according to preliminary tallies — had filed legal challenges to the vote count, but said on Friday that "I am accepting that Oscar Arias will be the next president of Costa Rica."

"I ask everyone to also accept him as the new president," Solis, candidate of the Citizen's Action Party, told a news conference.

Arias, 65, who served as president from 1986 to 1990, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for his work as a mediator to help end the bloody civil wars that wracked Central America in the 1980s.

Election officials rejected the vote challenges filed by Solis' campaign, and they now must fulfill largely procedural steps before formally declaring Arias the winner.

That move is expected as soon as next week. The winner takes office on May 8.

Arias supports a free trade agreement with the United States, arguing it would help revitalize the country's stagnant economy. But Solis argued that the pact, known as CAFTA, would hurt farmers if enacted, and said it should be renegotiated.

Twelve other candidates also sought the presidency in an election that officials said had a 64 percent turnout — the lowest in Costa Rican history.

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