CONAKRY - GUINEANS began casting their votes on Sunday in a long-delayed presidential run-off to choose the country's first democratically elected leader since independence from France in 1958.

The historic vote pits former prime minister Cellou Dalein Diallo against academic and veteran opposition politician Alpha Conde. Mr Diallo is the poll favourite, having won 43 per cent of the vote in the first round, while Mr Conde came in with 18 per cent.

In Conakry voters streamed into voting stations from sunrise for the opening of the vote shortly after 0700 GMT (3pm S'pore time), waiting patiently in line to exercise their democratic right.

'Everybody is in a hurry to finish with the old system, money being stolen to benefit a few, the waste,' said retired doctor Saidou Cisse, 67 at a voting station at a seaside school. 'Before, whoever was in power, the treasury was for him and his family. The result: Guinea is rich with its bauxite, its iron, but we live in misery.'

Helene Boire, a 55-year-old teacher, is as relieved to see the back of military rule: 'Finally, we will have a leader elected by the people, to serve the people. It's a celebration, but people remain tense until the results have been accepted, without blunders.'

Under pressure from the international community the two candidates - who come from two ethnic majorities, the Fulani and Mandinke - made a joint call for calm on Friday after a campaign marked by violence between rival camps.

Guinea votes in historic run-off