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All votes from disputed Afghani presidential election to be audited
ABC Radio Australia - July 13, 2014
US Secretary of State John Kerry made the announcement alongside the candidates Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, following two days of negotiations. Mr Kerry says both men have agreed to abide by the result.
The deadlock over last month's run-off vote to succeed outgoing President Hamid Karzai plunged Afghanistan into crisis and dented US hopes of a smooth transfer of power as Washington seeks to withdraw all its troops by late 2016.
Preliminary results of the second-round vote put Ashraf Ghani in the lead, but Abdullah Abdullah – who has already once lost a presidential bid – declared himself the true winner, saying massive fraud robbed him of victory.
The stand-off sparked concern that protests could spiral into ethnic violence and even lead to a return of the fighting between warlords that ravaged Afghanistan during the 1992-1996 civil war.
But after two days of intense talks brokered by Kerry, the rivals have reached an agreement.
"Both candidates have committed to participate in and stand by the results of the largest most possible audit," Kerry told reporters.
"Every single ballot that was cast will be audited, all eight million. The winner will serve as president and will immediately form a government of national unity."
The deal goes further than a UN proposal made late Thursday to audit just over 8,000 polling stations where suspicions of ballot-stuffing had been raised – around 44 percent of the total votes cast.
Mr Kerry says the audit would be carried out in Kabul and begin within 24 hours, with NATO and Afghan forces transporting ballot boxes to the capital.
The chief US diplomat said the audit would be "conducted in accordance with the highest international standards" and would take "a number of weeks". He said the UN mission in Afghanistan had asked for the presidential inauguration date, scheduled for August 2, to be postponed.
Britain welcomes vote deal
British Foreign Secretary William Hague has praised the deal made by the two presidential rivals and pledged Britain's support for the process. Hague congratulated the two candidates "for putting the interests of the Afghan people first."
"I hope the audit of all the votes will enable Afghans to have confidence in the electoral process and its outcome," he said.
"The UK will support efforts to ensure the audit is robust and meets international standards." Mr Hague praised the commitment made by both candidates that they would lead a government of national unity.
"We look forward to welcoming the Afghan government and international community to the NATO Summit in Wales and the London Conference on Afghanistan later this year," he added.