KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An audit of results from Afghanistan's presidential runoff election resumed Sunday after a holiday break, an electoral official said.
The audit of more than 8 million votes is likely to take weeks, stalling an already much-delayed announcement of a new president to replace Hamid Karzai, the only leader the country has known since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion that ousted the Taliban.
Preliminary results from the June 14 runoff showed former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai well ahead of his rival, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, but both sides alleged fraud.
Afghan election commission spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor said the audit, which would remain open to the public, began in the afternoon although it had been scheduled to start a day earlier.
"The audit process is underway right now in two shifts to end the process as soon as possible," he said at a news conference, adding that local and international observers are watching the audit along with journalists, as well as representatives from candidate Ghani Ahmadzai's team. There were no representatives from Abdullah.
A United Nations official said Saturday that requests from Abdullah's team had delayed the audit's resumption.
Abdullah's campaign team meanwhile decried the audit as "a show" on Sunday and maintained that the election was fraudulent. It released a recording with a voice it alleged belongs to the country's second vice president, Mohammad Karim Khalili, assuring his supporters that Ghani Ahmadzai would win the election because he had support from both foreigners and Karzai.
Khalili's office later denounced the recording as a fake.
A senior State Department official said that Secretary of State John Kerry called both Abdullah and Ghani Ahmadzai on Friday to express continued support for the Afghan electoral process and a framework agreement for a national unity government agreed during his last visit.
The official added that Kerry stressed urgency in accelerating the audit and implementing the framework agreement following the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The Secretary reminded both candidates that Afghanistan and its international partners need clarity from the process and confidence that the two candidates and their supporters will be able to work together regardless of who wins, in order to implement reforms.
Also Sunday, in the country's east, a member of the International Security Assistance Force died as a result of non-battle injury, ISAF said in a statement, without giving any other details.
So far total of 49 international service members have died in the country since the beginning of the year.