Kerry seeks to broker end to Afghan election crisis

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KABUL: US Secretary of State John Kerry sought Friday to mediate an end to the political crisis in Afghanistan, warning that a bitter dispute over presidential polls threatened the country’s future.
As the top US diplomat met separately with the rival candidates, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, Kerry stressed that results released Monday showing Ghani in the lead were “preliminary.”
Kerry rushed to Kabul from meetings in China on Friday in a hastily arranged visit for talks with the two presidential contenders, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, as well as incumbent Hamid Karzai and other senior officials.
Preliminary results from a June 14 run-off round put Ghani, a former World Bank official, in the lead but Abdullah rejected the result, calling it a “coup” against the people, and his aides have threatened to set up an alternative administration.
“The election legitimacy hangs in the balance, the future potential of the transition hangs in the balance, so we have a lot to do,” Kerry said after a meeting with UN special envoy to Afghanistan Jan Kubis.
“Our hopes are that there is a road that can be found that will provide that capacity for the questions to be answered, for people’s doubts to be satisfied, and hopefully for a future to be defined. But I can’t tell you that that’s going to be an automatic at this point.”
US officials said Kerry would urge both contenders to agree on a review “of all reasonable allegations of fraud,” which would entail additional audits of the vote count.
“We want a unified, stable and democratic Afghanistan. It is important that whoever is president is recognized by the people as having become president through a legitimate process, and that the government can unify the people and lead them in the future,” Kerry said after a meeting with Abdullah.
Abdullah’s rejection of the outcome has set the stage for a possible bloody standoff between ethnic groups or even secession of parts of the fragile country, which is already deeply divided along tribal lines.
Ghani, speaking earlier, said he favored a comprehensive audit. “Our commitment is to ensure that the election process enjoys the integrity and the legitimacy that the people of Afghanistan and the world will believe in,” he said.

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