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Runoff election likely: Envoy

world Updated: Oct 16, 2009 08:19 IST

A runoff vote is very likely between incumbent Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his closest challenger in the country's highly contested election, Karzai's ambassador to the United States said.

Said Tayeb Jawad predicted the runoff would follow an announcement expected within days by the UN-backed electoral commission looking into fraud in the August election.

The ambassador is the first official from Karzai's government to predict publicly that the challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, will have enough support to force a runoff. Jawad said all sides should work hard to hold the runoff vote swiftly -- ideally within a month.

A two-week deadline mandated in the country's constitution is "impossible", Javad said. He worried that if the deadline slipped far into November, the weather will be too cold in parts of the country. Voters in Afghanistan, a country of great distances and few roads, often must travel long distances and spend significant time outdoors.

Jawad spoke at the US Institute of Peace, and afterward with The Associated Press.

"To delay until spring is a recipe for disaster,'' Jawad said, because Afghanistan needs clear leadership. Delay would also undermine the afghan government's relationship with the United States, he said.