International pressure was mounting on Saturday on Afghanistan's political rivals to broker a deal to end the country's election crisis, as results were due from a fraud investigation that could determine whether President Hamid Karzai must face a runoff.
The August 20 vote was marred by charges of ballot-stuffing and voter coercion, mostly to Karzai's benefit. Both he and top challenger Abdullah Abdullah say the results of the fraud probe are in their favour. They deny they are negotiating the formation of a coalition government to avert would could prove a divisive and costly second round of voting.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called the candidates on Friday as concerns grow over who will lead the country, and when. The political crisis, and rising US casualties in the war against insurgents, have prompted the Obama administration to review its entire Afghanistan war strategy.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, US Democratic Sen John Kerry and veteran US ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad were in Kabul today. Khalilzad held talks with both candidates this week and said he pressed them to reach a solution quickly, noting that US support was not a guarantee if Afghanistan is seen as a hopeless case.