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Afghanistan's Election Chief Resigns 'For The National Interest'

Afghanistan's election commission chief, Zia-ul-Haq Amarkhail, doesn't recall the conversation he allegedly had with a member of a candidate's campaign staff.

The chief of Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission (IEC) has resigned amid accusations he rigged vote results to favor one of the candidates in the recent presidential election.

Zia-ul-Haq Amarkhail said he is stepping down "for the national interest and for the sake of the election process."

The presumed front-runner in the June 14 runoff election, Abdullah Abdullah, accused Amarkhail of stuffing ballot boxes for rival candidate Ashraf Ghani.

Amarkhail said while announcing his resignation in Kabul that he wants to create a "trust-building process" and wishes to see improvement in Afghanistan and in the lives of the Afghan people.

He said he hoped his resignation would allow Abdullah to resume his relationship with the IEC and "end his boycott."

Abdullah told reporters in Kabul on June 23 that he may end his boycott, saying "the door is now open for us to talk to the [IEC] and talk about the conditions and circumstances which will help the process."

On June 22, Abdullah's campaign produced audio recordings purportedly of Amarkhail, other election officials, and a member of Ghani's election team discussing stuffing ballot boxes.

Amarkhail told "The Wall Street Journal" that he didn't recall any such conversation and said later that the audio recordings were "fake."

Abdullah had said last week that he would not recognize any results released by the election commission. He called for the UN to supervise vote-counting and also for Amarkhail to resign.

Abdullah also implied that President Hamid Karzai was involved in the voter fraud, saying Karzai favored Ghani -- a former finance minister in his administration -- to be the next president.

Abdullah had also claimed after the 2009 presidential election, which he lost to Karzai, that massive fraud had ensured that he finished second.

Abdullah won 45 percent of the vote in the first round of the presidential election, with Ghani in second place, winning 31.6 percent.

First preliminary results from the runoff election are due to be issued July 2, with final results coming out on July 22 after a 20-day period for complaints to be reviewed.

Meanwhile, the United States urged both Abdullah and Ghani to "remain engaged" in the electoral process and refrain from violence.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on June 22 that Afghanistan has "established legal mechanisms for receiving, investigating and adjudicating complaints."

With reporting by AP, AFP, and "The Wall Street Journal"