MONTREAL (AP) _ Federalists who advocate a united Canada took a fragile lead over Quebec's pro-independence movement Monday night after trailing in early returns from a dramatic secession referendum.

The closeness of the vote increased the likelihood that deep divisions would trouble the mostly French-speaking province no matter which side won.

With 70 percent of the 22,400 polling stations reporting, the federalists took their first lead of the evening _ 50.1 percent to 49.9 percent for the separatists. Federalists were optimistic because many of their strong districts in bilingual Montreal had not yet reported.

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