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Incumbent ruler Col. Maouya Ould Sid Ahmed Taya has been declared the winner of Mauritania's first free presidential poll, reports said yesterday.

Colonel Taya won 60 percent of the vote in this northwest African nation, according to Information Ministry sources late Saturday. His strongest challenger, opposition candidate Ahmed Ould Dada, took an estimated 33 percent.

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The election came following last year's referendum which approved a democratic constitution. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for March.

Mr. Dada alleged the government manipulated the poll by discriminating against his mainly black minority supporters. He said he would appeal. Taya has held power since 1984, when he ousted former military leader Ould Haidalla in a bloodless coup.

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