Leila Sehovic (above) is comforted by Zvonimir Cicak, a human rights monitor in Croatia, after Ms Sehovic was stripped of the Miss Croatia title, allegedly because she is Muslim.

The jury of the Miss Croatia beauty contest chose the runner-up from the original competition two weeks ago to take the crown in a surreal latenight re-run of the vote in a Zagreb hotel early yesterday. Organisers claimed there were irregularities in the voting at the original contest.

Sehovic fled in tears from the hotel room where the voting was held on Sunday night, while runner-up Ivana Petkovic looked distinctly uncomfortable.

Pronounced the winner with 12 votes to five, a sullen Petkovic walked silently on to a podium in front of the panel of judges to be given her sash, with no audience in the bare hotel room.

The British-based Miss World organisation, which had called for the new vote, said it was "beneath contempt" to suggest ethnic motives were at work in the row and claimed there were always people who climbed on board controversy.

British actress and human rights activist Vanessa Redgrave, appearing at a news conference, replied that such people had "minds that were in the dark".