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Karzai hails Nov 7 run off

KABUL, Oct 20 – Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday hailed a November 7 second round run-off against his main rival Abdullah Abdullah as a step forward for democracy in the troubled country.

The new election date was announced after a UN-backed Afghan complaints commission confirmed staggering levels of fraud in the August 20 presidential vote, declaring more than one million ballots suspect.

"This is not the right time to discuss investigations, this is the time to move forward to stability and national unity," Karzai told a news conference.

"I call upon our nation to change this into an opportunity to strengthen our resolve and determination, to move our country forward and to participate in the new round of elections," he added.

Elsewhere, US President Barack Obama welcomed Karzai’s agreement to hold a second round of voting in Afghanistan’s disputed election as an important precedent for Afghan democracy.

"I welcome President Karzai’s statement today accepting the Independent Electoral Commission’s certification of the August 20 election results, and agreeing to participate in a second round of the election," Obama said.

"This is an important step forward in ensuring a credible process for the Afghan people which results in a government that reflects their will," Obama said in a written statement.

The United States and its allies had been imposing intense pressure on Karzai to agree to a second election, or to frame a national unity government, after massive fraud tainted the first round of voting.

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