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EU appeals for calm as DR Congo counts votes

Monuc/AFP | Published on August 02, 2006

BRUSSELS, Aug 2, 2006 (AFP) - The European Commission called for restraint Wednesday as votes are counted from the first free elections in four decades in conflict-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

"I call on all the candidates and their supporters to show a sense of responsibility and maintain the climate of calm and serenity that will be vital in coming days and throughout the process," External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said.

"I call on all those involved in the electoral process to use the appeal procedures foreseen in the electoral law if they have any complaints about the way this process was conducted," she said in a statement.

The presidential and parliamentary polls, which started Sunday and are part of a series of elections expected to be completed by the end of the year, are a milestone for the DRC as it emerges from a war that drew in seven other African countries between 1998 and 2003.

Some four million people died as a direct or indirect result of the war, which also left around 1.6 million people homeless.

Results are not due until August 31, and UN powers are concerned that violence could erupt in the mineral-rich but impoverished DRC, given hostilities during campaigning and misrepresentation of preliminary results in the media.

Some private television stations owned by candidates -- in particular the frontrunner President Joseph Kabila and his arch-rival Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba -- broadcast results from individual towns or villages, presenting them as an indication of a national trend.

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