Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah pulls out of election run-off (UPDATE-2)
Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah quit an election run-off on Sunday after accusing the government of not meeting his demands for a fair vote, but said he was not calling for a boycott, Reuters reported.
Speaking to supporters and tribal elders in a huge tent in Kabul, Abdullah made no mention of any power-sharing deal with his rival, President Hamid Karzai, an indication that earlier talks to strike an accord had possibly foundered.
Karzai had been favorite to win the November 7 presidential run-off after getting the most votes in a fraud-marred first round on August 20.
"I will not take part in the election ... I have not taken this decision easily," Abdullah said.
Karzai's campaign team said the run-off would go ahead despite Abdullah's withdrawal.
Afghanistan has been racked by weeks of political uncertainty, with security also a major concern after a resurgent Taliban vowed to disrupt the run-off.
With Afghanistan's political future hanging in the balance, President Barack Obama is also weighing whether to send up to 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan. Obama met his top military leaders on Friday as part of a strategic review.
A spokesperson for the White House could not immediately be reached for comment on Abdullah's decision.
Abdullah said he quit because the demands he had sought from the government and the Independent Election Commission (IEC), including the sacking of Afghanistan's top election official in the wake of the tainted first round, had not been met.
His voice faltering, Abdullah told his supporters at the "loya jirga," a traditional grand assembly of elders, he had made his decision "in the interests of the nation."
Later asked by reporters if he would urge his supporters to boycott the vote, Abdullah said: "I have not made that call."
NO TALKS WITH KARZAI AT MOMENT
Abdullah's campaign director, Abdulsattar Murad, said talks with Karzai were not on the table at the moment and that Abdullah, the incumbent president's former foreign minister, would likely hold a news conference later on Sunday.
Abdullah's running mate, Homayoun Assefy, said talks with Karzai could happen after the proposed run-off.
"Our campaign is finished," Assefy told Reuters. "We are not participating."