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Afghan Presidential Challenger Withdraws, Creating Turmoil

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Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah says he will not participate in this week's runoff election against President Hamid Karzai. He accused the government of not meeting his demands for a fair vote.

Abdullah says that his withdrawal is in protest of what he called the misconduct of the government and the country's Independent Election Commission.

The former foreign minister had given President Karzai until Saturday to remove the country's top election official in an effort to avoid a repeat of the massive fraud that marred the August 20 presidential election.

The Saturday deadline passed without any action from Mr. Karzai.

Following his announcement Sunday, Abdullah had a request for his supporters.

"Not to take to the streets. Not to feel grief. I know it is difficult," Abdullah said. "After all, this is not [a] democratic environment. But at the same time, it is for a good cause. It is for the future generations of this country."

Waheed Omar, a spokesman for President Karzai's campaign, said they believe the election is the right of the Afghan people.

"The withdrawal was Dr. Abdullah's personal choice. That should not affect the process as a whole," Omar said.

The United Nations spokesman in Afghanistan, Aleem Siddique, told VOA Abdullah's decision was a difficult one. He praised the candidate for his conduct throughout the election and said it is up to Afghan authorities to determine how to proceed.

"We need to wait to hear from Afghanistan's legal institutions - the Independent Election Commission and the Supreme Court - to give their interpretation of the next steps ahead," Siddique said.

Afghan election officials say that according to the country's constitution, the election must continue. A spokesman for the election commission also told VOA that Abdullah had missed the deadline to officially withdraw.