Abdullah 'would accept legitimate Afghan vote defeat'

Presidential contender Abdullah Abdullah spoke to the BBC's Karen Allen

Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah has told the BBC he would respect his rival winning, but only if it is proved the election was fair.

He said he would do everything he could to ensure a "legitimate outcome" to the 14 June run-off with Ashraf Ghani.

Both men have alleged vote fraud and provisional results have been delayed by a week while votes are re-checked.

Dr Abdullah won a clear lead during the first round of voting in April, but fell short of an outright majority.

The BBC's Karen Allen in Kabul says the former resistance fighter and foreign minister appears to have softened his position.

Two weeks ago he demanded an immediate halt to the count and said he would not accept the result, unless his claims of mass fraud were properly investigated.

A senior election official at the centre of fraud claims has since resigned.

And on Tuesday, the election commission said provisional results would be delayed for a week while officials at thousands of polling stations hold re-counts in provinces where irregularities were reported.

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Analysis: Karen Allen, BBC News, Kabul

In what appears to be a softening of his stance, Dr Abdullah said ensuring the legitimacy of the vote, rather than its outcome, was his current focus. If Ashraf Ghani won by a "legitimate" process, he said he would welcome it.

Nearly a million votes are now being re-counted as election observers privately express fears about what they believe are "extraordinary" levels of fraud.

The key concerns include inflated turnout figures, with some provinces seeing a trebling in the numbers of people who voted in the second round compared to the first.

There are also worries about the absence of spoilt votes in some areas where candidates have achieved a suspiciously high number of votes, and an unusually big number of female voters in areas which are traditionally insecure.

Thousands of supporters took to the streets at the weekend in defence of Dr Abdullah, whose aides say will not cut a deal with his opponent.

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Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai attends a news conference in Kabul on 14 June 2014. Abdullah's rival Ashraf Ghani trailed in the first round but seems to have done much better in the run-off

Both Mr Abdullah, a former foreign minister, and his rival, former finance minister Ashraf Ghani, have made allegations of fraud.

Some reports have put Mr Ghani in the lead following the second round.

His team insist the timetable for announcing results should be adhered to. The UN is trying to adjudicate between the two sides and end the deadlock.

The vote comes during a critical year for Afghanistan. Most foreign troops are due to withdraw by the end of 2014.

Dr Abdullah pulled out of Afghanistan's 2009 presidential election which was also marred by claims of mass fraud.

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