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Abdullah Abdullah emerges as leader in partial Afghanistan vote count

Afghanistan's election commission has said that with less than 10 percent of votes counted, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah has a presidential election lead. Full preliminary results are scheduled for April 24.

The country's Independent Election Commission on Sunday announced the result for 500,000 presidential election votes, amounting to 10 percent of the total votes cast in 26 out of 34 Afghan provinces.

"Abdullah Abdullah has received 212,312 votes, or 41.9 percent," Yousuf Nouristani, head of the commission, said during a press conference.

Abdullah, a former foreign minister, came in second place in the disputed 2009 presidential elections.

Former World Bank technocrat Ashraf Ghani was in second place with 37.6 percent of the vote; Zalmai Rassoul, another former foreign minister, stood in third position with 9.8 percent.

The commission, however, cautioned that the results were not final. "I want to make clear that the results could change in future, as we announce the results with additional percentages of the vote and this is not the final result," Nouristani said.

If no candidate gains more than half of the vote when the final results are tallied, run-off elections will be held in May.

The results of the third presidential election will bring an end to the administration of President Hamid Karzai, who has led the country since the US-led invasion of 2001, which ousted the Taliban. Karzai was not eligible to stand for another term.

The election, held on April 5, was labeled a success by world leaders after roughly seven million people defied Taliban threats of violence to cast their votes.

hc/msh (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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