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Dueling Afghan Presidential Candidates Agree To Resolve Election Dispute

Following a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Afghanistan's two dueling presidential candidates have come to an agreement that aims to resolve a long-running election dispute.

Reuters says that:

"A joint declaration that both of the candidates signed, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, did not provide details on the government's framework, except to say that both sides would form commissions to work on its structure.

"The power sharing deal, agreed verbally during Kerry's last visit to Afghanistan a month ago, was intended to pull the country back from war along ethnic lines after both candidates claimed victory in an election marred by widespread fraud.

" 'One of these men is going to be president but both are going to be critical to the future of Afghanistan no matter what,' Kerry told reporters in Kabul."

As NPR's Sean Carberry has reported, this historic election and drawn-out audit of the results have already strained a fragile country.

Sean explained:

"The delay stems from the fact that since the moment the polls closed, candidate Abdullah Abdullah has been crying foul.

"Abdullah entered the runoff as the front-runner, having won 45 percent of the vote in the first round of voting in April. He was five points shy of an outright victory in the eight-man contest. Abdullah had a 14 percentage-point lead over second-place finisher Ashraf Ghani. Many thought Abdullah was on target to be the next president.

"But unofficial vote counts from the runoff are showing Ghani leading Abdullah by 1.3 million votes. These numbers show him going from 2 million votes in the first round to 4.2 million in the runoff.

"Ghani was expected to get more votes in June's two-way race compared with April's eight-man race. However, according to Abdullah, the size of the increase can only be explained by massive fraud."

Since the election in June, the two men have argued about recount methods for months, but while the framework of new government is not clear, the two candidates said they plan to inaugurate a new president by the end of August.

The Associated Press reports:

" 'This is really an Afghan solution to an Afghan problem,' Kerry said at a news conference. 'Both parties have agreed to stay at it and both parties have agreed to live by the outcome.' ...

"Abdullah called the agreement 'another step forward in the interests of strengthening national unity in the country, strengthening rule of law in the country and bringing hope to the people for the future of Afghanistan.' "

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