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Opposition reformer Viktor Yushchenko barely edged out the pro-Kremlin candidate in the first round of Ukraine's presidential vote, setting up a runoff later this month for the leadership of the former Soviet republic, official results showed Wednesday.

Yushchenko won 39.87 percent of the vote, half a percentage point ahead of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych in the Oct. 31 balloting, the Central Elections Commission announced Wednesday after a delayed final tally.

Earlier counts had shown Yanukovych narrowly ahead.

Nearly 3 percent of the ballots were rejected because of "grave voting irregularities," commission Chairman Serhiy Kivalov said.

Yushchenko, a reform-minded former prime minister, will face Yanukovych in a Nov. 21 runoff to determine who will succeed outgoing President Leonid Kuchma. Kuchma favored Yanukovych for the post.

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