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20 Oct, 2009 15:54

Karzai agrees to hold second ballot

Afghanistan's electoral commission has announced there is a need for a second round of voting after August's disputed presidential elections. The voting is expected to take place on November 7.

The announcement comes one day after a UN-backed election watchdog group claimed they had found evidence of fraud and rejected almost a third of Hamid Karzai's ballots.

Though incumbent president Karzai had initially claimed 54.6 percent of the vote in the first round, the investigation determined that no candidate had received over 50 percent – the threshold for automatic victory.

Abdullah Abdullah, the country's former foreign minister and Hamid Karzai's main rival, says the second ballot will help to make Afghanis feel safer.

“The fate of the people of Afghanistan has been strengthened in the process. They know there was a fraud but, at the same time, it was corrected,” he told RT. “We put one chapter behind us and are now looking towards the future,” he added.

On Tuesday, the Afghan President said he accepted the findings and agreed to hold yet another election.

"I call upon this country to take this as an opportunity to move the country forward and participate in a new round of the election," Karzai later said on national television.

Senator John Kerry, the head of the U.S. Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, was present during the announcement. Before, he had reportedly met with the 51-year-old Karzai at the presidential palace to persuade him to agree to new polls.

Karzai also held phone conversations with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.