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Turkish-Cypriot hardliner wins presidential poll

Dervis Eroglu, a backer of Turkish Cypriot independence, claimed victory in yesterday's presidential vote in northern Cyprus, which could slow efforts to unify the island and Turkey's EU hopes. He said he would continue with peace talks but a Greek Cypriot government called his victory a "negative development".

Eroglu, who currently serves as prime minister, defeated the incumbent Mehmet Ali Talat, who had sought closer links with Greek Cypriots, after taking 50.4 percent of the vote on Sunday.

A doctor by training, Eroglu, 72, has said he will resume peace talks with Demetris Christofias, the Greek Cypriot leader, but has ruled out the return of ethnic Greeks to the Turkish-held north. He says he will seek a two-state confederation in any final settlement.

Turkey, the only country to recognise northern Cyprus, backed Talat as he pushed for an end to the decades-old dispute on the island, seeing it as the best chance to bring Turkish Cypriots into the EU and pave Ankara's way to join the bloc.

"I've lived through the bad days of the past," Eroglu told reporters after claiming victory, referring to violence between Cyprus' ethnic Greeks and Turks that led to the collapse of power sharing in 1963, 3 years after independence from Britain.

Drumming home his message of 'two sides for two people', he said: "I seek a solution based on the realities of the island and a solution that all of us can live with."

But Eroglu has also said he will work closely with the mainland, which he refers to as "our motherland Turkey".

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday warned Eroglu he must continue talks and that he wanted a deal in 2010.

Ankara's support for northern Cyprus costs $700 million a year and it has 30,000-troops stationed on the sliver of land twice the size of London.

Any secessionist proposals are a red flag for Greek Cypriots, who represent Cyprus in the European Union and will bar Turkey from joining until there is a settlement.