Afghan President Hamid Karzai's team said on Tuesday he would accept a ruling from election authorities after a fraud probe that could lose him over a million votes and deprive him of outright victory.
The statement came with the Afghan head of state, whose popularity stakes in the West have plummeted amid corruption and spiralling insecurity, under mounting international pressure to end political chaos in the war-torn country.
It was the first public statement from Karzai's campaign team that the president would respect the law and implied he would accept a second-round vote if electoral authorities order that one must be held.
"We have to wait for the final announcement through legal channels, which is the Independent Election Commission (IEC), and once the IEC announces the results then we are bound to accept it, based on the law," said Waheed Omar.
Election officials were today debating the implications of a report from a UN-backed Afghan watchdog that could force the country to hold a run-off or stitch together a unity government to end two months of political chaos.
An independent US observation mission said the report meant that 1.3 million votes would be thrown out, including nearly a million for Karzai, which would slash his vote to 48 percent -- below the threshold for outright victory.
If Afghan electoral authorities confirm and accept that outcome, under law the country should hold a run-off between Karzai and his main rival, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah within two weeks.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said it was "very important" for Karzai to face a run-off.
"Having a second round seems to me to be very important, because it's a proof of democracy, and for Afghanistan to take the path of democracy is a good thing," he told France Info radio.
There are signs that the patience of Karzai's traditional backers in the United States is wearing thin, as President Barack Obama wrestles with a decision on whether to deploy thousands more troops to Afghanistan.
"It is going to be incredibly important for the world to see that Afghan leaders are willing to make this process legitimate," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
There had been concerns that Karzai might not accept his vote falling below the 50-percent victory threshold, prolonging the political crisis on top of a spiralling eight-year war between Afghan, NATO and US troops, and the Taliban. AFP