Kerry urges Afghan can­di­dates to end dis­pute

The Covington News - - THE WIRE -

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion on Thurs­day stepped up ef­forts to press Afghanistan's two feud­ing pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates to end their dis­pute over June elec­tions, ac­cept the re­sults of an on­go­ing au­dit of all bal­lots and form a na­tional unity govern­ment by early Septem­ber.

On an unan­nounced visit to Kabul, U.S. Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry made per­sonal ap­peals to both can­di­dates — for­mer For­eign Min­is­ter Ab­dul- lah Ab­dul­lah and for­mer Fi­nance Min­is­ter Ashraf Ghani Ah­madzai — to un­der­stand the ur­gency of find­ing a res­o­lu­tion be­fore the up­com­ing NATO sum­mit in Wales on Septem­ber 4, ac­cord­ing to officials trav­el­ing with Kerry. At that sum­mit, NATO lead­ers are hop­ing to make de­ci­sions about their na­tions' roles in Afghanistan af­ter the end of the year, when most com­bat troops will be with­drawn.

Officials with Kerry said the sum­mit would be an op­por­tu­nity for the even­tual elec­tion win­ner to present him­self to the al­liance and in­tro­duce his new cabi­net, which, un­der a for­mula bro­kered by Kerry on his last visit to Kabul in June, would in­clude the elec­tion loser ap­point­ing a new "chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer" who would serve un­der the pres­i­dent. Once cre­ated, the Afghan govern­ment would con­vene a loya jirga, or na­tion­wide assem­bly, to for­mal­ize the chief ex­ec­u­tive post as a prime min­is­ter, the plan en­vi­sions.

Kerry's visit comes as the elec­tion re­sults are be­ing au­dited in a process that he bro­kered last month but that had halted to mark the end the of the Mus­lim holy month of Ra­madan in late July. The au­dit re­sumed ear­lier this week with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of both can­di­dates par­tic­i­pat­ing but still at odds over charges of wide­spread elec­tion fraud in the June 14 runoff. Pre­lim­i­nary re­sults of the poll showed Ghani Ah­madzai well ahead of Ab­dul­lah, but both sides al­leged fraud.

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