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We use rigorous diffraction theory to analyze the force on elliptical cylinders made from silver as a function of the elongation. We find that, when the wires are illuminated at the plasmon wavelength and placed in a highly focused Gaussian beam, they are attracted toward the optical axis if the waist of the laser is behind the wire and repelled if the waist is before the wire. Also, the force distributions of illumination wavelengths smaller and larger than the plasmon wavelength are analyzed. © 2004 Optical Society of America.