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Karzai Signs Up For Afghan Poll, Names Running Mates

Afghan President Hamid Karzai

Afghan President Hamid Karzai

KABUL (Reuters) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai has officially registered to stand for reelection, and named current Vice President Karim Khalili and former Vice President Mohammad Qasim Fahim as his two running mates.

The election is scheduled for August 20 and Karzai, who has led Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, confirmed last week he would stand again. Other candidates for president and the two vice-presidential posts have one more week to register.

Karzai is a member of Afghanistan's largest ethnic group, the Pashtuns, while Fahim and Khalili represent the Tajik and Hazara minorities, the country's second- and third-largest groups, giving the ticket ethnic balance.

The three men appeared together at the election commission office in Kabul to register their candidacies.

Karzai took power as part of an internationally brokered deal after U.S.-backed Afghan forces led by Fahim toppled the Taliban government in 2001. He remained in office after winning Afghanistan's first democratic presidential vote in 2004.

Karzai's opponents have had difficulty settling on a challenger in this election. A popular governor, Gul Agha Sherzai, withdrew from the race on May 2, and Fahim was a prominent member of the opposition before agreeing to stand as one of Karzai's running mates.