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KARZAI DECLARED WINNER IN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

Hamid Karzai was officially declared Afghanistan's first popularly elected president Wednesday after a weeks-long fraud probe found no reason to overturn his landslide victory.

His chief rivals in the Oct. 9 election conceded defeat today. Yunus Qanooni, who finished second with 16 percent compared with Karzai's 55 percent, said he would accept the result.

The U.N.-sponsored electoral board, confirming the results of the vote, said Karzai had won a five-year term. It was the first national ballot since the fall of the Taliban three years ago.

"His excellency Hamid Karzai is the winner," board chairman Zakim Shah said.

In its final report released Wednesday, the panel confirmed problems with ballot stuffing and with ink used to mark people's fingers to prevent multiple voting. But it said there was "no evidence" that the problems were widespread or that they favored only Karzai.

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