The results released on Thursday by the independent electoral commission showed no clear winner [AFP]

Cote d'Ivoire's president will face the country's main opposition leader in a runoff later this month to decide the West African nation's next leader, the electoral commission said.

Final results released by the commission on Thursday after Sunday's election put Laurent Gbagbo in first place with just over 38 per cent of the vote - well short of the 50 per cent needed to avoid a second round.

Alassane Ouattara, his main challenger who is wildly popular in the formerly rebel-held north, had about 32 per cent, according to an Associated Press news agency tabulation.

The preliminary results must be certified by the country's constitutional council before the count is finalised. A runoff would then be due on November 28.

The party of Henri Konan Bedie, the former president, called for a recount, accusing the electoral commission of publishing false results in a "clear desire" to rig the poll.

Bedie, who was toppled in 1999 during the nation's first coup, had 25 per cent of the vote, according to the results.

The election, delayed repeatedly because of disputes over voter registers, was the first since civil war split the world's biggest cocoa producer in two, leaving rebels in control of the north.

The country officially reunited in a 2007 peace deal, but deep tensions remain and many fear violence could erupt if results are disputed.

In New York, the UN Security Council urged all candidates to remain committed "to a democratic, peaceful and transparent completion of the electoral process" and accept the outcome.

It also commended the Ivorian people "for their massive and peaceful participation in this crucial vote, which represents a historic step towards the restoration of sustainable peace".

Source: Agencies