KABUL: Presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah defiantly told thousands of supporters Tuesday that he will declare victory in the country's election, claiming massive fraud was responsible for preliminary results that put his rival in the lead. The United States warned both camps against trying to seize power, saying international financial and security support was at stake.
The turmoil came as violence escalated around the country. A suicide bomber struck and foreign forces near a clinic in the eastern province of Parwan, killing at least 16 people, including four Czech soldiers.
Abdullah said he received calls from President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and he was told that Kerry would be flying to the capital on Friday in a bid to help defuse the crisis. State Department officials accompanying Kerry in Beijing declined to comment on his travel plans.
Abdullah told his supporters that the results of the election were fraudulent, but asked them to give him a few more days to negotiate.
"We denounce and do not accept the results of the fraudulent vote. I assure you people of Afghanistan that I will sacrifice for you, but I will never accept a fraudulent government," he told his supporters, many angry over the result. "We announce that only the government elected through clean votes will come to power."
The Independent Election Commission on Monday released preliminary results from the June 14 runoff showing former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai well in the lead for the presidency but said no winner could be declared because millions of ballots were being audited for fraud.
According to the preliminary results, Ahmadzai had about 4.5 million votes, or 56 percent, while Abdullah had 3.5 million votes, or 44 percent. Turnout was more than 50 percent.
That was a sharp turnaround from the first round of voting on April 5 when Abdullah garnered the most votes with 46 percent to Ahmadzai's 31.6 percent but failed to get the majority needed to avoid a runoff vote.
Abdullah has refused to accept any results from the second round until all fraudulent ballots are invalidated.
Ahmadzai, a U.S.-educated former finance minister and World Bank official, said he also had spoken to Kerry on the telephone.
"We welcome him (Kerry) coming here, but the real responsibility is up to us and we are hopeful that we will fulfill all our responsibilities," he said at a news conference at his home in Kabul. "We are prepared to engage in political discussion in order to make sure that we move to insure the legitimacy of the process, its fairness and the acceptance of its results."
He also rejected the idea of parallel governments, which has been raised by some Abdullah supporters.
"Talk of parallel governments will remain in the level of talk, because the historic responsibility that his excellency Dr. Abdullah and I as people who have submitted ourselves to the will of the people of Afghanistan have is to ensure the stability of this country and the legitimacy of the regime to which we have devoted our lives."
The election commission acknowledged that vote rigging had occurred and said ballots from about 7,000 more of the nearly 23,000 polling stations would be audited.
Abdullah charged that outgoing President Hamid Karzai, Ahmadzai and the election commission were colluding against him. "They ignored us and announced the fraudulent results," he said.
"People across the county have called on us to announce our government and I cannot say no to the people's wish," he said. "All of our lives we defended this country. We do not want crisis, we want national unity."
"We are the winner of the election without any doubt," he said.
Kerry said during a visit to Tokyo that any action to seize power illegally in Afghanistan would lead to the end of U.S. financial and security support.
He said suggestions of a "parallel government" in Afghanistan were a grave concern and added that he expected electoral institutions to conduct a full review of all reasonable allegations of irregularities. He said there was no justification for violence or threats of illegal action.
"Any action to take power by extra-legal means will cost Afghanistan the financial and security support of the United States and the international community," Kerry said.
Speaking to reporters in Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. was "disappointed" that the electoral commission went ahead with yesterday's announcement while the voter fraud investigation was still unresolved.
"These serious allegations were not sufficiently investigated, and we would have preferred that the announcement be postponed until there was agreement on further audit measures that need to be taken to address the substantial allegations."
"There are proposals on the table that would help to address that. Our view remains that the audit process can be completed in time to allow the inauguration of the next president to proceed as scheduled on August 2nd."
Abdullah said Obama had called him to promise help "in cleaning up votes."
The European Union and the U.N. urged the IEC and its sister complaints commission to cooperate on the audits.
The U.N. mission in Afghanistan also called on both candidates "to exercise restraint and take all steps necessary to control their supporters to prevent them from making irresponsible statements and from taking steps that could lead to civil disorder and instability."
Meanwhile, the Czech Ministry of Defense confirmed that four Czech troops were killed and another was badly wounded by Tuesday's blast.
At least 10 civilians and two police officers also were killed in the attack near the provincial capital of Charakar, local government spokesman Wahid Sediqqi said.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement sent to the media.