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Kerry: 'Very Critical Moment' For Afghanistan, Amid Poll Dispute

In addition to the two candidates, U.S Secretary of State John Kerry (left) will meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul.
In addition to the two candidates, U.S Secretary of State John Kerry (left) will meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Afghanistan for talks aimed at resolving the election crisis.

Kerry met early on July 11 with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and is holding talks with presidential candidates Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah throughout the day.

"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," Kerry said in Kabul on July 11.

The Afghan Independent Election Commission (IEC) has declared that Ghani won the second round of voting on June 14 with 56.44 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results. But the tally might change when the final official numbers come out on July 22.

Abdullah, who won the first round of voting, has rejected the results and claimed victory in the runoff.

Karzai's office issued a statement after his talks with Kerry, quoting the president as saying that "any solution taken through legal means and is agreed by the candidates is acceptable."

Ghani said at the start of a meeting with Kerry that he was committed to an "intensive and extensive" audit of votes.

"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," Ghani said.

Kerry welcomed Ghani's stance. "No one is declaring victory at this time," he said. "The results have yet to be finalized."

Up to 3 million ballots out of a total of 8 million could be challenged in an official review by electoral officials.

Talks Of National-Untity Government

Meanwhile, Abdullah's second vice-presidential running mate, Mohammad Mohaqeq, has called for a one-year transitional government if attempts fail to resolve the disputed election.

In an interview with Bloomberg published on July 11, Mohaqeq said the IEC must be "reformed" and that a "reelection should take place nationwide."

Mohaqeq said there would be a crisis if alleged fraudulent votes cast in favor of Ghani were not thrown out.

On July 9, the U.S. envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, James Dobbins, called a national-unity government a "necessity" for Afghanistan.

But U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki later clarified Dobbins' remarks, saying, "It is for the next president of Afghanistan to determine the composition of the government."

Psaki added that "the United States government wants to see a unified Afghanistan and wants to bring unity to the people of Afghanistan."

She said the next government "will need to be broad-based and inclusive to lead to a unified Afghanistan."

Washington, Psaki said, was "encouraging a range of steps in the process" to "get closer to that conclusion."

U.S. President Barack Obama told both candidates in telephone calls earlier this week that any "violent or extra-constitutional measures" over the vote fraud allegations would "cost Afghanistan the financial and security assistance of the United States."

Meanwhile, the head of the EU election-monitoring mission to Afghanistan has called for an "in-depth audit" of the results.

Thijs Berman said in a statement on July 10 that without such an audit, "it is not possible to declare a winner."

With reporting by Bloomberg, Reuters, and AP