Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission (IEC) says it has suspended the audit of eight million votes cast in the presidential election runoff.
IEC chairman Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani told a press conference on July 26 that the audit would be suspended until the "fourth day of Eid," the Muslim festival that marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
Eid begins on July 28.
Nuristani said he hoped the temporary halt would give presidential rivals Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani time to “sort out their differences,” a reference to the candidates' failure to agree on the criteria for invalidating fraudulent votes.
The IEC said the audit, which began on July 17, would take around three weeks. But only four percent of the process is complete following persistent delays and disputes between the candidates.
U.S. President Barack Obama spoke by telephone with both presidential candidates on July 25 and urged them to “maintain national unity” amid the acrimonious and sluggish audit.
The White House said in a statement that during the July 25 conversations with rival candidates Abdullah and Ghani, Obama thanked them for agreeing to accept the audit of every ballot cast in the election.
Prior to the U.S.-mediated agreement to have the ballots scrutinized, Abdullah had claimed massive fraud and disputed preliminary results that gave Ghani a 1 million-vote lead, raising fears of violence.