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Afghan election officials to resume audit of presidential vote

KABUL — Despite lingering disputes, Afghan electoral officials said Thursday that they will resume an audit of the presidential election this weekend after the candidates sparred over how to disqualify ballots amid allegations of massive fraud.

The recount of more than 8 million votes could take weeks, stalling an already much-delayed announcement of a new president to replace Hamid Karzai, the only leader the country has known since the 2001 US-led invasion that ousted the Taliban.

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Preliminary results from the June 14 runoff vote showed the former finance minister, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, well ahead of his rival, the former foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah, but both sides alleged fraud.

In a high-profile bid to pull the country back from the brink of crisis, US Secretary of State John F. Kerry negotiated a deal that included an audit of all votes under national and international supervision and ultimately a national unity government.

But that process soon fell victim to procedural arguments between the two candidates’ teams.

Electoral officials stopped the audit last weekend because of the differences as well as a major Muslim holiday.

The head of the Afghan Independent Election Commission and the chief UN envoy to Afghanistan said the sides have agreed on new criteria, allowing the audit to go forward.

‘‘On Saturday, we will restart the auditing and we kindly request the candidates, their team representatives, and all other stakeholders involved in the auditing to fully cooperate with the Independent Election Commission in implementing this framework and finishing the process,’’ Commission chairman Ahmad Yousuf Nouristani said at a joint news conference with UN envoy Jan Kubis.

Kubis signaled that patience was growing thin.

‘‘Any delays, any uncertainties, have a major, negative impact on both the political and economic situation in Afghanistan,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s high time to complete the process of the elections.’’

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