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Afghanistan's Abdullah Pledges 'Meritocracy' If Elected

Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah rejects rumors he's brokering a behind-the-scenes deal with rival candidates to avoid a second round.
KABUL -- In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL, Afghan presidential front-runner Abdullah Abdullah says he will not exclude anyone, including his rivals, from government if he is elected.

Abdullah, a former foreign minister, said his new government would be based on merit and could include rival candidates and his old adversary, President Hamid Karzai.

"We are making no those who share our vision," he said.

Abdullah is among the front-runners to win the April 5 presidential election. Preliminary results are not expected until April 24, but partial results released on April 13 give him the lead.

Abdullah rejected rumors he was brokering a behind-the-scenes deal with rival candidates to avoid a second round, which is likely because no candidate is expected to win an outright majority in the first.

Abdullah said he had met with Karzai last week -- not to cut any deals but to discuss the role the president and other cabinet ministers could play after a new leader is sworn in.

Abdullah pledged to contest a second round "in order for the people to give their final verdict."

Abdullah also rejected speculation that if elected his government would be dominated by Islamists and former warlords. His two vice-presidential running mates are both from hard-line Islamist political parties who fought in the devastating civil war. Abdullah is part of a rival Islamist group, the Jamiat-e Islami.

But Abdullah said his government would not be dominated by one group or ideology and he would seek to build an "inclusive and national government."
READ The Full Transcript Of The Interview
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    Frud Bezhan

    Frud Bezhan is the regional desk editor for Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan in the Central Newsroom at RFE/RL. Previously, he was a correspondent and reported from Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Turkey. Prior to joining RFE/RL in 2012, he worked as a freelance journalist in Afghanistan and contributed to several Australian newspapers, including The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.