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Afghan Governor Will Not Run Against Karzai

A potential challenger to Afghan President Hamid Karzai's bid for re-election is withdrawing from contention.

Gul Agha Sherzai, the governor of Nangarhar province, told reporters Saturday that he decided not to run for president after holding a private meeting with Mr. Karzai.

Sherzai also said he planned to step down as governor of Nangarhar, but Mr. Karzai did not accept his resignation. The president issued a statement calling Sherzai's decision a step toward improving the unity and government of Afghanistan.

Mr. Karzai has led Afghanistan since the U.S.-backed invasion ousted the Taliban in 2001. He won an election in 2004, and is running for a second-term in the August 20 vote.

A worsening Taliban insurgency in the country and charges of government corruption have weakened Mr. Karzai's image at home and abroad. But so far, a strong challenger to his re-election bid has not emerged.

Sherzai was credited with helping the United States oust the Taliban from the southern province of Kandahar after the U.S-led invasion in 2001. As governor of Nangarhar, he has been credited with reducing opium production in the province.

U.S. President Barack Obama met with Sherzai during a visit to Afghanistan last year.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.