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Abdullah 'may quit Afghan poll'

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8335194.stm Page last updated at 07:23 GMT, Saturday, 31 October 2009 Abdullah may quit Afghan poll Abdullah Abdullah,
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 31, 2009

      Page last updated at 07:23 GMT, Saturday, 31 October 2009
      Abdullah 'may quit Afghan poll'

      Abdullah Abdullah, President Hamid Karzai's rival in the second round of Afghanistan's presidential election, is reportedly close to quitting the poll.

      Mr Abdullah called for the resignation of key election officials, cabinet ministers and provincial governors as a way to mitigate fraud and corruption.

      The deadline for those conditions to be met expires on Saturday.

      A senior adviser said that in talks on Friday, Mr Abdullah's team decided he should not take part in the poll.

      The BBC's Ian Pannell, in Kabul, says this does not mean he is officially withdrawing, although Mr Abdullah is expected to decide on his next step this weekend.

      The former foreign minister may simply tell his supporters that he will not take part and that they should do likewise, our correspondent says.

      In a meeting with President Karzai earlier this week, Mr Abdullah's demands for resignations were turned down.

      But this election has been a protracted and murky affair, our correspondent says, and until an official announcement is made, the details of any final decision on whether he is standing won't be known.

      'Nothing has changed'

      Hundreds of thousands of votes were discounted from August's first round of voting.

      The UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission's (ECC) action meant Mr Karzai's total was reduced to below the 50% plus one vote threshold for outright victory, indicating a run-off poll was needed.

      Among the "minimum conditions" Mr Abdullah has set for holding a relatively fair and free contest to be accepted, is sacking of the head of the country's Independent Election Commission (IEC), Azizullah Lodin.

      On Monday, Mr Adbullah said Mr Lodin had "no credibility". Mr Lodin denies allegations that he favoured Mr Karzai.

      One of Mr Abdullah's senior advisers, Ahmed Wali Massoud, said he was unhappy that nothing had been done to redress the electoral system's problems.

      "The fact is that the infrastructure of this fraud is still there. Almost 1.5 million votes were rigged. Nothing has changed," he told the BBC.

      "So if you go back and do the second round election, it means that it will happen again. So, therefore, I don't think that we would be willing to participate."

      An announcement might come as early as Saturday but was more likely on Sunday, people close to Mr Abdullah told the Associated Press.

      Earlier, the IEC announced that it planned to open 6,322 polling stations for the run-off - more than it did during the first round.

      The ECC had recommended cutting the number from 6,000 to about 5,800 - to make sure there would be enough monitors to limit fraud and troops to ensure security.

      Mr Abdullah served as foreign minister in the short-lived government headed by the Northern Alliance, and continued as "foreign minister in exile" throughout the years of rule by the Taliban, which was ousted in 2001.

      He continued in that role under the Karzai government that was formed after the fall of the Taliban, leaving the government in 2006.
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