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Afghan rivals vow unity to speed vote audit

US-backed pact envisions leader in place by Sept.

US Secretary of State John Kerry at a news conference with candidates Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah.

Omar Sobhani/Reuters

US Secretary of State John Kerry at a news conference with candidates Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah.

KABUL — The rivals to become Afghanistan’s next leader pledged Friday to work together to speed an audit of the disputed election and accept its results after weeks of delays and partisan squabbling.

Former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and former finance minister Ashraf Ghani issued a joint statement, brokered under American and United Nations auspices. The candidates agreed to a joint commission to ‘‘finalize a timeline for the electoral process,’’ a reference to the slow-moving audit of more than 8 million ballots, according to an English version of the statement.

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The commission will set a date for the inauguration of the new president, the statement said.

The goal is to have a new leader in place by the end of August, an ambitious schedule that few international observers had thought could be met. The United States has been warning that failure to have a new president in place before the summit of NATO leaders in early September would undermine international faith in the fragile government and could dry up vital financial aid.

Although the agreement was short on details, the lengthy public comments by both Abdullah and Ghani Friday were unequivocal in their commitment to completing the audit quickly and accepting its results, forming a joint government with the winner as president and the loser as chief executive and shifting from wrangling over the past to cooperating for the future.

‘‘We are working for a shared goal, and we are committed to working together for the sake and the interests of Afghanistan,’’ Abdullah said at a joint news conference with Ghani and Secretary of State John Kerry. ‘‘One will win, and the other will be second, but we will have full cooperation.’’

Ghani spoke of their common ‘‘historic responsibility” to the country and said it was crucial to replace the current ‘‘dangerous uncertainty’’ with a concrete plan for the future. ‘‘We trust each other,’’ he said, looking at Abdullah. ‘‘What unites us now is far greater than what divided us during the campaign.”

The similar tone of the candidates’ comments, as well as their bantering exchanges and identical references to finishing the audit and establishing a national unity government as soon as possible, suggested they have reached a more sincere accommodation since Kerry visited Kabul three weeks ago and brokered an agreement between them that soon bogged down in disputes.

Both conveyed a new sense of urgency Friday, which contrasted sharply with the delaying tactics and objections their camps have been raising recently to the audit process and the power agreement.

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