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Leading Rival In Afghan Vote Ends Boycott --> 13 October 2004 -- Ethnic Uzbek General Abdul Rashid Dostum, a leading rival to Afghan election front-runner Hamid Karzai, called off his boycott of the election today.

With ballot counting expected to begin later today, Dostum joined the two other main challengers in agreeing to recognise the outcome of the country's first ever direct presidential vote.

His spokesman, Faizullah Zaki, said that Dostum believes that the election is a major achievement, but that there were violations and that they should be considered.

A panel appointed by the UN-Afghan Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) is in Kabul today to assess complaints of irregularities.

JEMB member David Avery said late yesterday that vote counting may start today. Ballots are still arriving from remote areas of the country.

Meanwhile, the commander of U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan says the country's presidential election represent a resounding defeat for terrorism.

U.S. General David Barno told reporters in Kabul today the election confirms that a peaceful political process based on democracy, "will always trump terrorist threats and intimidation."

Barno described the vote on 9 October as an "overwhelming success," though several candidates complained of irregularities in the voting procedures. A special commission has been assembled to look into the charges.


[For more on the Afghan elections, see RFE/RL and Radio Free Afghanistan's dedicated "Afghanistan Votes 2004-05" webpage.]