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Abdullah Claims Victory In Contested Afghan Election

While saying he won't accept "fraudulent results," Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah called for the country to remain united.
While saying he won't accept "fraudulent results," Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah called for the country to remain united.

Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah has claimed victory in the country's disputed presidential election and blamed fraud for putting him well behind rival Ashraf Ghani in preliminary results.

"We are proud. We respect the votes of the people. We were the winner," Abdullah told thousands of cheering supporters in a giant tent in central Kabul on July 8.

"We will not accept a fraudulent result -- not today, not tomorrow, never," he added.

But Abdullah called for the country to remain unified.

"We don't want civil war. We don't want a crisis," he said. "We want stability, national unity, not division."

Earlier, Abdullah supporters chanted "Death to Karzai!" They tore down a large portrait of the outgoing president and replaced it with an image of Abdullah.

Dozens of Abdullah supporters also tore down a portrait of President Hamid Karzai at Kabul's international airport.

Ghani, a former finance minister, and Abdullah, a former foreign minister, have accused each other of trying to manipulate the results.

WATCH: Supporters of candidate Ashraf Ghani celebrated on the streets of Kabul late on July 7 following the announcement of the preliminary results of the June 14 runoff election.

Ghani Supporters Celebrate Preliminary Afghan Election Results
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Earlier on July 8, in a sharply worded statement, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned that any attempt to seize power in Afghanistan "by extra-legal means" would cost the country its international aid.

Kerry voiced the "gravest concern" about reports of suggestions of a "parallel government" and said Washington expected Afghan electoral institutions to investigate "reasonable allegations of irregularities."

Some Abdullah supporters have suggested his camp should declare victory and form a parallel government.

Abdullah did not appear to address such calls in his remarks to supporters on July 8.

Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) said on July 7 that preliminary results from the June 14 second-round ballot show Ghani with 56.44 percent of the vote compared to 43.56 percent for Abdullah.

Commission Chairman Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani stressed that the results could change after taking into consideration allegations of fraud or a review of votes that could later be invalidated.

The hotly contested outcome of the election has sparked concerns about a wider split along ethnic lines in Afghanistan.

Ghani attracts support from Pashtuns in the south and east, while Abdullah's loyalists are Tajiks in the north -- echoing the ethnic divisions of the civil war in the 1990s.

The international community had pressed for a smooth transition of power in Afghanistan ahead of the planned withdrawal of international forces by the end of 2014.

A July 22 deadline has been set to announce the final results.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP