Daniel Ortega, target of U.S.-backed Contra war, wins Nicaragua's presidential election

Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega, a former Marxist revolutionary who fought a U.S.-backed insurgency in the 1980s, returned to the presidency calling for reconciliation, stability and a renewed effort to pull Nicaragua out of poverty.

Ortega's election victory, confirmed by officials on Tuesday, adds another nation to Latin America's leftist bloc and Venezuela's anti-U.S. leader Hugo Chavez immediately said the two countries would be "uniting as never before" to construct a socialist future.

In his post-victory comments, however, Ortega laid out more moderate goals, saying he would work to eliminate poverty in the Western Hemisphere's second-poorest country after Haiti. He also reassured investors he was open to business and promised to "create a new political culture" that would "set aside our differences and put the Nicaraguan people, the poor first."

"We are showing the country that things are stable, that we can set aside our political positions and put first our commitment to pull Nicaragua out of poverty," he said in a brief speech. He was expected to address supporters at length in a rally on Wednesday afternoon.

His supporters waved black-and-red party flags and singing Ortega's campaign song, set to the tune of John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance."

In an interview with The Associated Press earlier Tuesday, Ortega's vice president, Jaime Morales, a former Contra who was once one of Ortega's biggest enemies, said the first thing the new administration would do is "talk immediately with all the businessmen to maintain their confidence and reassure them that everything's fine."

The United States, which had warned against a win by the former revolutionary, did not immediately comment on the results. But former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who served as an election observer, said Tuesday in Managua that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice "assured me that no matter who was elected, the U.S. will respond positively and favorably."

With 91 percent of the votes tallied, Ortega had 38 percent of the votes compared to 29 percent for Montealegre. Under Nicaraguan law, the winner of Sunday's election must have 35 percent of the vote and a lead of 5 percentage points to avoid a runoff vote.

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