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Bolivian leader pushes for talks after autonomy vote

  • Story Highlights
  • Bolivia's largest state, Santa Cruz, votes overwhelmingly in favor of autonomy
  • Three other states also plan vote on autonomy from Bolivia's central government
  • President Evo Morales renews call for talks with governors from these states
  • Eastern lowland states rich in oil at odds with plans to help indigenous majority
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SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia (CNN) -- Bolivian President Evo Morales has renewed calls for negotiations with the governors of states considering autonomy.

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Bolivian President Evo Morales, left, has described the state of Santa Cruz's vote for autonomy as illegal.

Morales reiterated calls for dialogue on Monday, a day after exit polls showed that country's largest state, Santa Cruz, voted overwhelmingly in favor of declaring autonomy from the central government. Three other states plan to vote on autonomy as well.

The dispute pits eastern lowland states rich in oil and natural gas against a leftist central government led by Bolivia's first indigenous president. They have been at odds over Morales' reforms and his plans to revise the constitution to help the country's indigenous majority.

On Sunday night, polls showed that nearly 86 percent of voters in Santa Cruz favored autonomy, but Morales described the vote as illegal and called it a failure. Video Watch as the Bolivian leader deems the election unconstitutional »

The governor of Beni state, which also plans to vote on autonomy, said, "The government should take steps to recognize the legitimacy of what happened yesterday in Santa Cruz and recognize what is going to happen in the other states."

In Washington, State Department spokesman Tom Casey said the United States would like the Bolivian government and opposition "to return to their dialogue and to resolve their outstanding differences ... in a peaceful and lasting fashion."

Morales and the eastern governors have met several times in recent months.

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The government is awaiting the governors' response to Morales' invitation for more talks, the Bolivian Information Agency reported Monday.

The goal is an agreement for "true autonomy that benefits the entire country," the agency quoted Morales as saying. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Gloria Carrasco contributed to this report.

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