WASHINGTON, Dec. 13 (AP) - Al Gore decided Wednesday to concede the country's overtime election, aides said, clearing the way for George W. Bush to become the 43rd president and leader of a nation sharply divided along political lines. The vice president acted after a split Supreme Court ruled against recounts in contested Florida.

Two senior advisers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Gore would officially drop out in a nationally televised address Wednesday at 9 p.m. EST. ``The race is over,'' said one official after speaking with the vice president. ``We're done.''

Gore made the decision 12 hours after the U.S. Supreme Court, as divided as the nation, ruled 5-4 against the vice president's bid to recount thousands of ballots in Florida. Gore had sought the recount in hopes he could overturn Bush's 537-vote victory margin in the state whose 25 electoral votes will settle the election.

``The vice president has directed the recount committee to suspend activities,'' campaign chairman William Daley said in a written statement that effectively ended an unbearably close election 36 tumultuous days after the nation voted.

Gore topped his Republican rival by more than 300,000 votes out of 103 million ballots cast nationwide. But Florida's electoral votes, to be cast on Dec. 18 and counted on Jan. 6, would give Bush a total of 271 electoral votes to Gore's 267.

Bush was in Texas, savoring his hard-earned triumph in private, as if to give Gore all the room he needed for a graceful exit. The governor waved to reporters as he strode into the Capitol in Austin at midmorning but merely smiled in answer to questions about the developments.

Republican running mate Dick Cheney was in Washington, meeting with House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois and other GOP lawmakers, part of a transition to power that now could begin in earnest.

Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, speaking for the Republican camp, had said Tuesday night that Bush and Cheney were ``very pleased and gratified'' by the court's ruling. That was an understatement of historic proportions given the furor since Election Day - a saga of counts, recounts, lawsuits by the dozens and two trips to the highest court in the land.

Bush's inauguration on Jan. 20 would give Republicans greater control over the government than at any time since Dwight Eisenhower sat in the White House. The GOP retained control of the House in the November elections. The Senate is split 50-50, but Cheney's election as vice president -- giving him the ability to cast tie-breaking votes -- will give the GOP at least nominal control there, as well.

The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling Tuesday night triggered a fast-paced series of events.

Members of Gore's own party urged him to concede the race, but the vice president went to bed Tuesday night without telling aides what he would do.

After meeting with his wife Tipper and several advisers, Daley among them, Gore authorized the statement on Wednesday saying he would not press the recount any further for Florida's pivotal electoral votes.

Aides said the vice president intended to telephone Bush, probably before his address.

A Gore confidant said the evening speech will make clear that he has conceded to Bush and that the country should unite behind the next president. Gore also will explain why he fought for five weeks after the election, returning to his theme that every vote should be counted.

Though Gore has told advisers he considers the 5-4 ruling the act of a partisan high court, the confidant said the vice president will not criticize the justices in his speech.

In Tallahassee, the court ruling and the vice president's decision seemed to render moot the action by the Florida Legislature to appoint a slate of electors loyal to Bush. The House approved the measure on Tuesday, and the Senate had been on track to follow suit on Wednesday. Leaders were meeting to discuss whether to proceed.

Democratic leaders who had stood with Gore throughout his recount fight made no attempt to prod him to the exits. ``The Supreme Court has made its decision. We support and respect Vice President Gore's right to respond on his own time schedule. Until he does so, we will have no comment,'' said the party's congressional leaders, Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri and Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota.

Not all Democrats were as sanguine.

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., urged Democrats to abide by the Supreme Court decision, but said that ``with every bone in my body and every ounce of moral strength in my soul'' he disagreed with the high court. He called it ``a willing tool of the Bush campaign'' that ``orchestrated a questionable 'velvet legal coup.'''

The Texan would become the first presidential candidate since Benjamin Harrison 1888 to lose the national popular vote but win the state electoral contest and thus the White House.