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Media reports suggest that the incumbent Afghan President Hamid Karzai pulled out of the first televised debate among the top three contenders in the August 20 election.

What is not clear in the reporting is whether President Karzai ever agreed to participate in the debate.

Karzai's campaign says it received the formal invitation only one day before the debate and that Karzai would only participate in a debate organized by the election commission and open to all Afghan media outlets.

The debate is organized by the privately owned Tolo TV, which claims to be one of the country's most popular TV stations. But Karzai's campaign has accused it of being biased.

In recent years, Tolo TV has had plenty of disagreements with senior Afghan officials over its reporting.

-- Abubakar Siddique

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