Kerry stresses urgency in accelerating vote audit

WASHINGTON (Pajhwok): US Secretary of State John Kerry called both Afghan presidential candidates on Friday to express continued support for the electoral process and a framework agreement for a national unity government agreed during his last visit, an official said on Saturday.
The State Department official added that Kerry stressed urgency in accelerating the audit and implementing the framework agreement following the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
The Secretary reminded both candidates that Afghanistan and its international partners need clarity from the process and confidence that the two candidates and their supporters will be able to work together regardless of who wins, in order to implement reforms, the senior official said on condition of anonymity.
The audit of results from the June 14 presidential runoff election resumed on Sunday after a holiday break despite being boycotted by presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah’s team.
The preliminary results put former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai well ahead of his rival Abdullah, but both sides alleged fraud.
Independent Election Commission spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor said the audit, which would remain open to the public, began in the afternoon although it had been scheduled to start a day earlier.
"The audit process is underway right now in two shifts to end the process as soon as possible," he said at a news conference.
He said local and international observers were watching the audit along with journalists, as well as representatives from candidate Ahmadzai's team. There were no representatives from Abdullah.
A United Nations official said Saturday that requests from Abdullah's team had delayed the audit's resumption.
Abdullah's campaign team meanwhile released a recording with a voice it alleged belongs to vice president Mohammad Karim Khalili, assuring his supporters that Ghani Ahmadzai would win the election because he had support from both foreigners and Karzai.
Ghani Ahmadzai's team later denounced the recording as a fake.

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