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Obama Congratulates Karzai on Agreeing to Run-off


U.S. President Barack Obama said he telephoned the Afghan president to support his runoff decision. Mr. Obama said both Mr. Karzai and Mr. Abdullah have shown they have "the interest of the Afghan people at heart."

President Obama has been waiting for the election dispute to be resolved before announcing his new Afghan war strategy, including the possible deployment of more U.S. troops. A White House spokesman (Robert Gibbs) said (Tuesday) it has not yet been determined whether that announcement will come before or after the November 7 runoff.

Before Tuesday's developments in Kabul, Mr. Obama's defense secretary (Robert Gates) said it may be necessary to decide what to do about U.S. troop levels before Afghanistan's political dispute is resolved.

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan (General Stanley McChrystal) is said to be asking the president for up to 40,000 additional troops.

At the United Nations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the world body will do all it can to make sure Afghanistan's second-round vote is carried out in a credible and secure manner. However, he conceded that task is going to be ( - in his words - ) "a huge challenge.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has agreed to settle Afghanistan's disputed election with a second-round runoff vote between him and his leading challenger, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah.

In the meantime, Mr. Karzai accepted a ruling by Afghanistan's election commission that the new presidential ballot should be held in less than three weeks, on November 7.

Speaking to reporters in Kabul, Mr. Karzai said he is urging everyone in the country to take part in the vote, which he called a "step forward" toward democracy in the war-torn nation. Announcement of the runoff followed a ruling by U.N.-backed auditors that nearly one-third of the ballots credited to Mr. Karzai should be discarded, because they were either fraudulent or recorded incorrectly following the August 20 election.


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