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Afghan election set for run off with most votes counted

Former Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah has retained a strong lead in the country's presidential polls, with more than 80 percent of votes counted. However, a run-off between the top two still looks likely.

The Afghan presidential election looks increasingly set to go to a run-off, with 82.59 percent of the vote counted so far.

Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission (IEC) said on Thursday that Abdullah had garnered 43.8 percent, with his main rival, Ashraf Ghani - a former World Bank economist - on 32.9 percent.

To win the vote outright and avoid a the need for run-off, a candidate would have to secure more than 50 percent of the vote.

The latest figures show a slightly reduced lead for Abdullah, who had 44.4 percent of votes compared with 33.2 percent for Ghani in partial figures released on Monday. Those figures were based on 50 percent of the votes.

Thursday had been slated as the day to release the full preliminary results, but allegations of fraud led to a two-day delay in counting.

No result imminent

Final results from the election held on April 5 are not due until May 14 and a run-off, if needed, will not take place until late May.

Outgoing President Hamid Karzai, who has been in office since the US led-invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, is constitutionally barred from serving another term.

The possibility of a deal being reached to avoid the need for a run-off, and the renewed security difficulties that it would pose, has so far been dismissed by Abdullah. The bill for the first round - held amid heightened security following threats from the Taliban - was put at around $100 million (72 million euros).

Deadly attack on US medics

On Wednesday, an Afghan security guard opened fire on a group of foreign medics at a Kabul hospital, killing three US doctors and wounding a US nurse.

Minister of Health Soraya Dalil said two of the deceased Americans were father and son. According to the hospital, the attacker was a member of the Afghan Public Protection Force assigned to protect staff and patients.

rc/pfd (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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