Karzai rival says won't join Afghan government

WASHINGTON Sat Oct 24, 2009 1:33pm EDT

Opposition candidate Abdullah Abdullah speaks during a news conference in Kabul October 21, 2009. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

Opposition candidate Abdullah Abdullah speaks during a news conference in Kabul October 21, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Omar Sobhani

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Abdullah Abdullah, Afghan President Hamid Karzai's rival in next month's run-off election, said he would not join Karzai's government if the incumbent won.

Asked in a CNN interview about comments by Karzai that he would welcome his rival in his government, Abdullah said he had "absolutely no interest in such a scenario."

Abdullah, a former foreign minister, said his intention in seeking the presidency was to bring change to the impoverished country, not to be "part of the same deteriorating situation."

Karzai is widely expected to win the second round largely due to his strong support base among fellow Pashtuns -- Afghanistan's largest ethnic group.

CNN reported some of Abdullah's comments and posted parts of the interview on its website on Saturday. It will broadcast the interview in full on Sunday.

Abdullah reiterated charges that the government had interfered in the first round vote in August.

If Karzai wins the November 7 vote "as a result of a transparent and credible process," Abdullah said, "I will be in the opposition pursuing the agenda for change."

He said he would push for "changing the highly centralized presidential system into a parliamentary system ... having a truly independent election commission, independent judiciary," among other goals.

Karzai, who agreed to the November vote after coming under heavy international pressure, said in an interview reported by CNN on Friday that some mistakes had been made in the August poll but the election had been clean as a whole.

"To call this as clean elections, I think this, with all due respect to Mr. Karzai, it's a bit of ignorance," CNN quoted Abdullah as saying. "Unfortunately, the government was involved."

The Taliban, which has been making major advances in its fight to topple the Kabul government, urged Afghans on Saturday to boycott the run-off and vowed to disrupt voting.

The election is a major element in Western efforts to stabilize Afghanistan. U.S. President Barack Obama is considering sending tens of thousands more soldiers to Afghanistan to face the growing Taliban threat.

(Reporting by Mohammad Zargham; editing by Eric Beech)

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