Afghan presidential rivals make breakthrough in poll dispute

(From L) US Secretary of State John Kerry, Afghan presidential candidates Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah hold hands following a joint press conference in Kabul on July 12, 2014Afghanistan’s two presidential rivals agreed Saturday to an audit of every vote cast in last month’s disputed election, a major breakthrough in a bitter standoff that raised fears of violence and ethnic unrest. The surprise deal between Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, reached after two days of frantic negotiations brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry, will see the eventual victor lead a “government of national unity”. Ghani, Abdullah and Kerry joined hands at the end of a news conference in Kabul and raised them in triumph after securing the breakthrough. The deadlock over the run-off vote to choose a successor to outgoing President Hamid Karzai plunged Afghanistan into political crisis and dented US hopes of a smooth transfer of power as Washington seeks to withdraw all its troops by late 2016.

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