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May 28, 2017

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Ghani vows comeback to win Afghan runoff

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani pledged Sunday to fight on after coming second in preliminary election results, setting the stage for a difficult runoff vote likely to be targeted by Taliban militants.

Another expensive, and potentially violent, election could be avoided by negotiations between the two leading candidates in the coming weeks, but both sides have dismissed talks of a possible power-sharing deal.

Ghani, an ex-World Bank economist, secured 31.5 percent of the vote, behind former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah on 44.9 percent, in the April 5 election that began Afghanistan's first democratic transfer of power.

"In the second round, the people should decide who has the ability to bring changes to the system," Ghani told supporters in Kabul.

"We will go for a second round with determination. Our belief in victory is still strong."

As no candidate gained more than 50 percent, a runoff between the two leading names is required under the Afghan constitution.

Ghani said that investigations into fraud could change the percentages before final results are due on May 14.

"After inspection of fraud, the distance between the two top candidates will lessen," he said. "A second round is a must according to constitution. Any doubts will threaten the stability of Afghanistan.

"We will go for principles, not deals," he added. "The people's votes tell me not to strike any deals with anyone behind the curtains.

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