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Afghan 'Unity Government' Deal Signed


Afghan President Hamid Karzai (center) speaks during celebrations to commemorate Afghanistan's 95th anniversary of independence as he is flanked by presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah (right) and Ashraf Ghani in Kabul on August 19.

Rival Afghan presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani have signed a "unity government" power-sharing deal in Kabul.

The signing comes after last-minute talks between the two candidates on a U.S.-brokered deal that would divide responsibilities between the president and the newly created office of chief executive.

A spokesman for front-running candidate Ghani said on condition of anonymity on September 20 that "100 percent" of outstanding issues had been resolved, and both camps had initialed the power-sharing agreement.

Earlier on September 20, Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission (IEC) said the final results of the country's disputed presidential election will also be announced on September 21, following a weeks-long audit for fraudulent votes.

Spokesman Noor Muhammad Noor said on September 20 that the "IEC will officially announce the final result of the presidential election tomorrow."

Ballots were first cast in April and again in a June runoff, but no winner has been decided amid allegations of widespread electoral fraud.

The UN-sponsored audit of the millions of votes was carried out but the results have not been publicly announced.

Both Ghani and Abdullah claim to have won the election, and the United Nations and the United States have pushed for a "national unity government" to try to avoid violence and ethnic divisions.

Former Foreign Minister Abdullah won the first round of voting in April but did not get enough votes to avoid a runoff.

According to preliminary count, former Finance Minister Ghani took the second round.

U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham brokered talks between Abdullah and Ghani on September 18, a day after negotiations on forming the unity government stalled in a dispute over when and how to release the final election results.

Rahimi said late on September 17 that Abdullah would quit talks on a unity government if the audit results were released before the candidates reached a deal.

Rahimi also said Abdullah wants the auditors to invalidate more of the ballots cast for Ghani.

Ghani rejected that demand.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan
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