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Former Bolivian leader Morales ready to stand aside in new elections

Credit: REUTERS/HENRY ROMERO

Ousted Bolivian president Evo Morales said on Friday that fresh elections could be held without him, potentially removing an obstacle to choosing a new leader in the South American country thrown into turmoil by his resignation.

By Diego Oré and Frank Jack Daniel

MEXICO CITY, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Ousted Bolivian president Evo Morales said on Friday that fresh elections could be held without him, potentially removing an obstacle to choosing a new leader in the South American country thrown into turmoil by his resignation.

"For the sake of democracy, if they don't want me to take part, I have no problem not taking part in new elections," Morales told Reuters in an interview in Mexico City. "I just wonder why there is so much fear of Evo," he added.

Morales resigned under pressure on Sunday after weeks of protests and violence following an Oct. 20 election that awarded an outright victory to him but was tarnished by widespread allegations of voting fraud.

He then accepted an offer of asylum from the Mexican government, which sent a plane to bring him to Mexico City.

Bolivian interim President Jeanine Anez, who took over on Tuesday after a spate of resignations, has said she wants to mend bridges with Morales' Movement for Socialism (MAS) party.

She has said, however, that Morales himself would not be welcome as a candidate in the next election.

The interim government and MAS lawmakers appear to have reached an accord to hold a new presidential election, but have not chosen a candidate.

The veteran leftist said he did not know who would be the MAS candidate, adding that it would be for the people to decide.

Morales said he wants to return to Bolivia as soon as his resignation is approved by the Bolivian legislature.

The former coca farmer said the U.S. government had also offered a plane to get him out of Bolivia.

"The United States had called the foreign minister (of Bolivia) to offer to send us a plane to take us where we wanted. I was sure it would be Guantanamo," he said, smiling.

(Reporting by Diego Ore and Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

((rosalba.obrien@thomsonreuters.com, Twitter: @rosalbaob; +1-646-2236161; Reuters Messaging: rosalba.obrien.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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