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George W. Bush finally claims U.S. presidency

In his first speech as the U.S. president-elect, George W. Bush called on the nation to "rise above a house divided." His rival, Al Gore, ended a long and bitterly disputed election by conceding defeat earlier Wednesday.

Both Bush and Gore addressed the need to unify the nation and heal the country's political wounds after a nasty, prolonged U.S. election.

"I hope the long wait of the last five weeks will heighten a desire to move beyond the bitterness and partisanship of the recent past," Bush said in the chamber of the Texas House of Representatives.

He thanked Americans for the privilege of serving as their next president, and asked them to "put politics behind us and work together" on social security, medicare and tax relief.

Bush added he understood "how difficult this moment must be" for his Democratic rival and he noted Gore's "distinguished record of service."

Bush's victory makes him just the second son of a president to become president.

Gore gives up biggest political prize

An hour before Bush's address, Gore surrendered his bid for the U.S. presidency in a generous and patriotic speech.

"For the sake of our unity of the people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession," he said.

The U.S. vice-president acknowledged the "long and difficult road" which ended 36 days after the Nov. 7 election with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling late Tuesday.

"I strongly disagree with the decision. But I accept it. I accept the finality of this outcome," he said in the only note of bitterness in his speech.

Gore called on Americans to unite behind Bush, adding: "May God bless his stewardship of this country."

Withdrawal ends legal whirlwind

Gore and running mate Joseph Lieberman pledged to "make history" with the country's first Jewish vice-president.

Instead, Gore becomes the fourth candidate in history to win the popular vote, but lose in the Electoral College, the body that actually picks the president.

Gore won the national popular vote by more than 300,000 ballots.

Gore's concession ends an unprecedented chapter in U.S. electoral history a five-week whirlwind of counts, recounts, lawsuits and appeals.

Gore conceded to Bush once before, in the early morning after election day. When the Florida vote emerged as too close to call, Gore retracted his phone call.

"I promised him that I wouldn't call him back this time," Gore joked on Wednesday night.

This concession will stand after the U.S. Supreme Court decision late Tuesday all but slammed the door on the Gore campaign.

In a complicated ruling, a majority of the nine justices declared last week's Florida Supreme Court decision, which allowed a manual recount of disputed ballots, unconstitutional.

Gore had been seeking recounts in the belief enough votes would emerge for him to wipe out Bush's thin lead in Florida.

Bush set sights on reconciliation

The two men will meet in Washington on Tuesday to try to reconcile the rifts that have come out of the election battle.

But analysts say it could take a long time to overcome the divisions, as Republicans prepared to claim control of both the White House and Congress for the first time in more than 45 years.

The Senate is split down the middle, leaving the GOP with the slimmest possible lead. During a tie, the vice-president, who is also speaker of the Senate, casts the deciding vote.

There are reports that Bush could announce senior members of his team later this week.

Florida's electoral votes will be formally cast on Dec. 18, and counted in a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6.

The 43rd president of the United States will be sworn in on Jan. 20.

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