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UN Says Abdullah To Rejoin Afghan Election Audit

Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah
Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah

The United Nations says Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah has agreed to rejoin an audit of the votes from Afghanistan's presidential election.

A UN statement on August 3 said Abdullah's team "informed the United Nations that it will ... resume its participation in the audit process tomorrow," after refusing to attend the recount earlier in the day.

The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, James Cunningham, welcomed the decision and said he was hopeful that the new president would be known by the end of the month.

Last month, Abdullah rejected preliminary results that named his rival, Ashraf Ghani, as the winner of the June 14 second-round presidential election. He claimed "industrial-scale fraud."

The two candidates agreed to the audit after an intervention by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

The audit of approximately eight million ballots cast in the June 14 runoff is being supervised by the United Nations.

The recount process was halted last month as Abdullah and Ghani have not been able to agree on some technicalities, such as how to disqualify votes.

Abdullah's team on August 3 released an audio recording of what they claimed was the voice of Vice President Muhammad Karim Khalili encouraging vote rigging in favor of Ghani.

In what is purportedly an address to close political associates before the June 14 runoff, the voice in the audio says that the whole government, election commission, and even President Hamid Karzai were in favor of Ghani's win.

Abdullah's team did not say where the speech was allegedly made, or how the recording was obtained.

Both Khalili's and Ghani's staff dismissed the recording as a fake. Karzai's office had no immediate comment.

The allegations of fraud have tainted the outcome of the election, which was meant to be the first democratic transition of power in Afghanistan's history ahead of the withdrawal of international combat troops at the end of the year.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and AP