updated 2/24/2008 12:26:50 PM ET 2008-02-24T17:26:50

Communist-rooted Dimitris Christofias won Cyprus' crucial presidential runoff Sunday, and supporters flooded onto the streets of Nicosia waving Cypriot flags and banners of Che Guevara.

Final results showed Christofias won with 53.36 of the vote, against 46.64 for conservative rival Ioannis Kasoulides, who conceded defeat and pledged his support to his rival in efforts to reunify the divided country.

Both had vowed to move quickly to restart long-stalled talks to reunify Cyprus, and the election has revived hopes of finding a solution the island's division between a Greek Cypriot south and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north.

Christofias becomes the European Union's only communist-rooted leader.

He has close ties with the Turkish Cypriot left wing, relations which have raised hopes for quickly restarting long-stalled negotiations with the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state. Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat has said he is ready to resume talks with whoever wins the election.

Reunification of the Greek Cypriot south and the Turkish Cypriot north would remove one of the obstacles to Turkey's efforts to join the European Union. It would also ease strong objections to Kosovo's new independence among Greek Cypriots who fear it would act as a precedent for north Cyprus.

"We will roll up our sleeves and work hard so that our island is reunified. Enough is enough, entrenching division is disastrous for our people and our island," Christofias told reporters after voting. "I also extend a message of friendship to ordinary Turkish Cypriots."

It was the promise of an end to the stalemate over the country's division that produced the surprise exit of hard-line incumbent Tassos Papadopoulos in a first-round vote last week.

Christofias and Kasoulides had run neck-and-neck until the last minute.

Both had accused Papadopoulos of regressive tactics edging Cyprus toward a permanent split with Turkish Cypriots, whose breakaway state is recognized only by Turkey. Papadopoulos was instrumental in urging Greek Cypriots to reject a 2004 U.N. reunification plan that Turkish Cypriots approved. A week later, the island joined the EU as a divided country.

Cyprus has been divided along ethnic lines since 1974, when Turkey invaded in response to a failed coup to unite the island with Greece. The island has one of the world's longest-serving U.N. peacekeeping missions. U.N. soldiers arrived in 1964.

Nearly 516,000 voters — including 390 Turkish Cypriots living in the south — were eligible to vote. Turkish Cypriot voters in the northern breakaway state were not.

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