Kerry Brokers a Deal to Audit All Afghan Votes

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from The New York Times,

After nearly 12 hours of often tense negotiations, Secretary of State John Kerry announced Saturday that Afghanistan would audit all eight million votes cast in a runoff presidential election last month as part of a deal to end a tense power struggle between the top two candidates.

The audit, intended to resolve allegations of widespread fraud, is to begin almost immediately, he said, and will be supervised by international monitors. Its results will be binding, and the winner will go on to head a national unity government whose shape has yet to be finalized.

“Every single ballot that was cast will be audited,” Mr. Kerry said at a news conference where he was flanked by the two candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, who endorsed the agreement.

The breakthrough came on the second day of a visit that Mr. Kerry hastily arranged to try to prevent Afghanistan’s first democratic transfer of power from collapsing. Both Mr. Abdullah and Mr. Ghani had said the election was marred by fraud, but both had also claimed victory.

Tensions were heightened Tuesday when Mr. Abdullah threatened to form his own government following the release of preliminary results from the runoff, raising the possibility of an ethnically and regionally divided Afghanistan just as American troops prepare to complete their combat mission.

Mr. Kerry spent Friday largely listening to the proposals of the Abdullah and Ghani camps and meeting with President Hamid Karzai.

And then on Saturday, shortly before 9 a.m., he began what would turn out to be an entire day of shuttling between meeting rooms at the American Embassy, where each candidate had gathered with a handful of advisers. He also met with Mr. Karzai at the presidential palace in the afternoon.

By the time they announced the deal, Mr. Kerry looked like a man who had put in a long day’s work. Mr. Abdullah and Mr. Ghani looked similarly worn out by the marathon negotiations, which had achieved what they alone could not in the weeks since the June 14 runoff.

“This is unquestionably a tense and difficult moment,” Mr. Kerry said, “but I am very pleased that the two candidates who stand here with me today and President Karzai have stepped up and shown a significant commitment to compromise.”

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