Reprieve for Gore as Florida is barred from declaring result until Judge's ruling

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The Independent US

The Supreme Court of Florida imposed a new delay in the still unresolved US presidential election last night, barring the state authorities from making a formal declaration of results until an appeal by the campaign of Al Gore had been heard.

The Supreme Court of Florida imposed a new delay in the still unresolved US presidential election last night, barring the state authorities from making a formal declaration of results until an appeal by the campaign of Al Gore had been heard.

The Secretary of State of Florida, Katherine Harris, had planned to certify Florida's results today, after all the absentee ballots were in, and had received the authority of a lower federal court to do so. But an urgent appeal by the Gore campaign led the Supreme Court to block certification pending a hearing in the state capital, Tallahassee, on Monday at 2pm (7pm GMT).

It was not only Ms Harris's plans that were frustrated by the Supreme Court's decision. The Republican candidate, George W Bush, had assembled his family at the Texas governor's mansion in Austin last night, in apparent expectation of a victory declaration later today. He leads Mr Gore in Florida by 300 votes state-wide and early returns showed him picking up another 50 from the absentee ballots.

The Supreme Court decision represented a big victory for the Gore campaign. Democrats had feared that any declaration in Florida could turn not just the legal, but the public relations, battle in Mr Bush's favour, leaving Mr Gore with an uphill struggle to contest the result.

Mr Gore emerged from his Vice-President's mansion within the half-hour to hail the ruling and reiterate his desire for the "will of the people to prevail". His campaign is backing manual recounts in three southern Florida counties, where it hopes to glean votes that may have been missed in the recount by machine.

The Gore campaign has been adamant that it will not concede victory until these recounts are complete.

Asked before yesterday's rulings whether Mr Gore might concede victory if Mr Bush was declared the winner today, Mr Gore's election observer in Florida, Warren Christopher, said: "Absolutely not".

Meanwhile, the manual recounts already in progressin West Palm Beach and Broward County continued apace. A third county, Miami-Dade, was set to decide whether to proceed with a recount for which local Democrats had pressed.

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