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Obama Congratulates Karzai on Agreeing to Run-off

By Paula Wolfson
White House
20 October 2009

U.S. President Barack Obama has called Afghan President Hamid Karzai to personally congratulate him for agreeing to take part in a run-off election on November 7. Afghanistan's election commission called for another round of voting after a U.N.-backed commission determined the original August balloting was rife with fraud.

President Obama says he contacted Hamid Karzai shortly after the Afghan president said he would abide by the results of a presidential election held in August.

"I wanted to congratulate him on accepting the certification of the recent election," Mr. Obama said.

The final tally gave Mr. Karzai less than 50 percent of the vote; just short of the amount needed to prevent a run-off.

Initial counts from the August balloting showed him well within the margin for a first-round victory. But UN-backed fraud investigators later threw out about one-third of the votes cast for President Karzai, setting the stage for Afghanistan's election commission to order a second round.

President Obama says the commission and the investigators deserve praise for their work. And he says both Hamid Karzai and his run-off opponent - Abdullah Abdullah - are acting in the best interest of their country.

"President Karzai as well as the other candidates, I think have shown that they have the interests of the Afghan people at heart, that this is a reflection of a commitment to rule of law, and an insistence that the Afghan people's will should be done," Mr. Obama said.

Mr. Obama spoke at the conclusion of talks at the White House with Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki. He said Afghanistan - like Iraq - has held an election under difficult circumstances. But he appeared optimistic about Afghanistan's future.

"We have seen the candidates expressing a willingness to abide by constitutional law and there is a path forward in order to complete this election process," Mr. Obama said.

Mr. Obama went out of his way to recognize the efforts of U.S. diplomats in Kabul who worked extensively to resolve the election dispute. He also thanked Senator John Kerry - the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee - who played a role.

Kerry said during the past weekend President Obama should wait until after the political crisis in Afghanistan is resolved before making a decision on whether or not to send more U.S. troops.

During an informal session with reporters, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said it has not been determined if the president will wait. Gibbs said only that an announcement is likely in the coming weeks.

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