Washington (AFP) - US Secretary of State John Kerry called Afghan President Hamid Karzai and urged him to address concerns of the rivals vying to succeed him, amid fears an election dispute could trigger instability.
Kerry also "stressed the importance of national unity and a peaceful political process," a State Department spokesperson said, after the preliminary result of Afghanistan's presidential election run-off was delayed for days for a recount of ballots in 2,000 voting centers.
Afghan voters on June 14 chose between former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani.
Abdullah, previously seen as the poll front-runner, has boycotted the election process over what he said was "blatant fraud," while Ghani has said the election was clean and that he is more than one million votes ahead.
"Secretary Kerry called Afghan President Hamid Karzai today to reaffirm US support for the Afghan election process, and to urge measures to address the concerns of individual candidates," the spokesperson said in a statement.
"He welcomed the steps taken by the Independent Electoral Commission to begin to audit ballots throughout the country and encouraged the IEC to conduct a full and thorough review that ensures the Afghan people have confidence in the integrity of the electoral process."
The statement added that "we have long stated our support for a credible, transparent and inclusive process that is broadly supported by the Afghan people and which produces a president who can govern the country.
"We call on all sides to work toward this goal and to avoid steps that undermine national unity."
The United Nations and donor countries, including the United States, have been trying for months to prevent a contested outcome, fearing political deadlock and ethnic violence as US-led troops withdraw from the country.
But with the two candidates at loggerheads, many fear the results could tip Afghanistan into street protests and uncertainty.