pushes for a deal in second day of talks on Afghan vote crisis
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[July 12, 2014]
By Lesley Wroughton and Maria Golovnina
KABUL (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State
John Kerry scrambled to produce a deal by the end of Saturday to end
Afghanistan's election crisis, meeting for the second day with the
country's two presidential candidates and incumbent President Hamid
The deadlock over the June 14 election run-off between the leading
contenders, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, has raised concerns
in Washington about a smooth transition of power in Afghanistan just
as U.S. troops are withdrawing.
Kerry and his aides met throughout the night, following talks on
Friday with both Abdullah and Ghani, as well as with Karzai and U.N.
special envoy to Afghanistan Jan Kubis.
He met again with Abdullah and Ghani at the U.S. compound on
Saturday and will meet Karzai at the presidential palace later.
A news conference is scheduled for Saturday afternoon before Kerry
flies to Vienna for talks between world powers and Iran on Tehran's
Preliminary results from the runoff vote put Ghani, a former World
Bank official, in the lead by almost one million votes. Abdullah
rejected the result, claiming widespread fraud and calling the
outcome a "coup" against the Afghan people.
The United States has urged the Independent Electoral Commision not
to release the final vote tally until a thorough review of the
votes. It also urged the camps of both Ghani and Abdullah not to
As talks unfolded behind closed doors, the rival camps were
tight-lipped on the progress.
"In this meeting they both exchanged ideas," said Mahmoud Saikal, a
key member of Abdullah's camp, speaking about the Friday meeting.
"John Kerry wanted more information about all electoral problems."
Discussions between Kerry and the Afghan parties have so far focused
on the technical details of the election process and the scope of an
audit of the votes that would be acceptable to both sides. It has
also looked at ways in which Afghanistan could set up an inclusive
and broad-based government.
U.S. officials declined to elaborate on the possibility of a unity
government, an idea both candidates have rejected, according to a
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"This is a divided nation along many lines and itís very important
at this stage in this society to ensure that we build as inclusive
and as broad-based and as unified a national government as
possible," a senior administration official.
"It was a close election, regardless of what happens and what the
audit comes back and finds."
"We need to ensure that all communities and constituencies identify
themselves in the government and feel represented in the government
that ultimately takes over," the official added.
In comments to reporters on Friday, Kerry said the transition to a
self-reliant state hung in the balance unless the legitimacy of the
election could be restored.
U.S. officials said several ideas were being discussed and that an
overall proposal had not yet been presented by the Americans. Kerry
cautioned both sides against abandoning efforts to reach a
compromise, the U.S. official said.
Washington has warned of repercussions if either side declares
victory and tries to grab power.
The United States is in the process of withdrawing its forces from
Afghanistan after 12 years of fighting Taliban insurgents, but the
country remains dependent on foreign aid. The U.S. is Afghanistan's
biggest foreign donor.
(Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
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