World News

Abdullah to withdraw from Afghan run-off: report

Afghan women walk past a poster of presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah in a street in Kabul October 27, 2009. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Abdullah Abdullah, the chief challenger to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, has decided to withdraw from a November 7 runoff election, the New York Times reported on Saturday.

In a dispatch from Kabul posted on its website, the newspaper quoted Western diplomats and people close to Abdullah as saying the former foreign minister would announce his decision on Sunday.

The decision, if confirmed, would effectively give Karzai a second five-year term.

The U.S. State Department had no immediate comment.

Abdullah polled second in the August 20 election behind Karzai. But the election was discredited after the United Nations threw out nearly a million ballots, one third of Karzai’s total, on grounds they were fake.

U.S. President Barack Obama has held a series of top-level meetings to decide on U.S. policy in Afghanistan in the face of a growing Taliban insurgency and mounting U.S. military casualties in the eight-year war.

He has to decide whether to agree to a request from his top military commander in Afghanistan to send tens of thousands more troops there.

Writing by Alan Elsner