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Karzai’s rival withdraws from elections

Presidential candidate Hamid Karzai has been declared the winner by the country's election commission in Afghanistan.

The announcement comes after the presidential runoff was cancelled following the withdrawal of Karzai's only challenger.

Abdullah Abdullah pulled out of the run-off, saying he does not believe a fair ballot is possible. The candidate’s decision came as a response to Karzai’s refusal to remove top election officials allegedly responsible for the widespread fraud in the first-round of voting in August.

The investigation showed that neither candidate received over 50% of the vote, which would have meant an automatic victory. However, the official results for the first round gave Karzai over 54% of the vote.

Last week, Karzai agreed to a second round of presidential elections, accepting the conclusion of the UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission that the first round had been subject to widespread fraud.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged Abdullah to stay engaged in his efforts for peace in Afghanistan. In addition, Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown said this move could bring national unity to the country.

The second round of the Afghan presidential elections is scheduled for November 7.

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