World leaders hail 'statesman' Karzai
The praise came in response to the Afghanistan president’s announcement that he will take part in a presidential run-off vote on November 7 against his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah.Washington -- US President Barack Obama and other world leaders rallied behind Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday after he agreed to a second round of voting in his country's corruption-tainted election.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown praised Karzai as a "statesman" and all the leaders who had pressured the Afghan president over the vote refrained from mentioning the fraud.
Obama, who telephoned Karzai, said the second round would be "an important step forward in ensuring a credible process for the Afghan people which results in a government that reflects their will.
"It is now vital that all elements of Afghan society continue to come together to advance democracy, peace and justice," he said.
Karzai is to take part in a presidential run-off vote on November 7 against his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah.
A UN-backed watchdog said there was staggering levels of fraud in the first August 20 vote with more than one million suspect ballots -- a quarter of the total cast. Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission (IEC) confirmed Tuesday that Karzai had fallen short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a run-off.
"President Karzai has today made clear that due constitutional process must be followed," said Prime Minister Brown, praising his "statesman-like" behaviour.
France's Sarkozy called Karzai "a statesman who can decide on what is essential, in the higher interests of his country and of the unity of the Afghan people."
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel said the second round would bring "a crucial contribution to the democratic electoral process in Afghanistan." She encouraged Afghans to take part in the new vote.
Italy, which like Britain, France and Germany, has troops in Afghanistan, said the reinforcements sent for the August 20 vote would stay for the second round.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the decision to stage a run-off vote "shows respect for the democratic process and institutions in Afghanistan."
But he stressed the next round of voting must achieve "a higher standard" of conduct than the August 20 poll "so that the government that results from this process has legitimacy in the eyes of the Afghan people."
EU High Representative for foreign policy Javier Solana urged "all parties with a stake in the elections to do their utmost to ensure that the turnout of the second round provides for a credible and secure process. It should lead to a credible and legitimate result."
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon sounded a cautious tone however, warning "huge challenges" remain in the Afghan election.
There have been growing signs US patience with Karzai is wearing thin, as Obama wrestles with a decision on whether to deploy thousands more troops to Afghanistan.
US and NATO war commander General Stanley McChrystal has requested some 40,000 more US troops to mount an intensified counter-insurgency against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Obama has not yet determined whether he will make a decision on sending more troops to Afghanistan before the November 7 runoff, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
Gibbs praised US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, US ambassador to Kabul Karl Eikenberry and especially Senator John Kerry, who has been mediating in Afghanistan for several days, for their role in ending the election crisis.
"I don't think there is any doubt that Senator Kerry played an enormously important role in ensuring the announcement that happened today... came out the way it did," the spokesman said.
Kerry, chairman of the US Senate's foreign relations committee, has said it would be "entirely irresponsible" for Obama to commit more troops when the identity of the next Afghan government is still unclear.