KABUL: US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Afghanistan on Thursday for his second visit in under a month to push a deal between the country’s two presidential candidates on how to share power after an audit of a disputed election is complete.
Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah shook hands on an agreement to resolve the election row after Kerry’s visit in July but they remain far apart on critical components of their pact to form a united government.
Although a painstaking audit of all eight million ballots cast in the second round of voting is under way, neither candidate has openly endorsed the process and the deadlock has raised the spectre of violent conflict along ethnic lines.
Afghanistan’s Western backers hope the audit will produce a legitimate president before a NATO summit in early September. Shortly after arriving in Kabul, Kerry held separate meetings with Ghani and Abdullah at the US compound to drive forward the deal.
He is expected to meet again with each of the candidates on Friday, and separately with President Hamid Karzai at the presidential palace, before a news conference.
While Karzai has said the next president will be inaugurated on Aug. 25, most officials involved in the process say the deadline is optimistic and it could take until the end of the month for a winner to emerge at the earliest.
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