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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 October, 2004, 12:40 GMT 13:40 UK
Afghan vote boycott 'crumbling'
Polling booth
An Afghan man inspects the ballot form before voting
Several candidates in Afghanistan's presidential election appear set to drop calls for a boycott of the result.

Confusion clouded the historic vote on Saturday when 15 of the 18 candidates alleged flaws in the voting procedure would produce a fraudulent result.

But many of their representatives have now told the BBC they will instead accept the findings of an official inquiry into alleged irregularities.

The UN has hailed the "massive" turnout in the elections.

More than 10 million people were registered to vote, many of them refugees living in Pakistan and Iran.

International bodies have endorsed the elections, with the largest monitor group there describing them as "fairly democratic".

Ink stains

Earlier on Sunday, Mohammed Mohaqeq, one of the rivals to the favourite, President Hamid Karzai, became the first to announce he was withdrawing his backing for the boycott.

Afghan woman with child
Particular efforts were made to encourage women to vote

Mr Mohaqeq said he wanted a UN commission to investigate the election and he would accept its ruling on its legitimacy.

Other candidates are also withdrawing calls for a boycott in favour of a more conciliatory approach, according to the BBC's Andrew North in Kabul.

Afghanistan's first-ever presidential election was marred by reports that an ink used to stain voters' fingers to prevent them from casting their ballot twice could be washed away.

This prompted several candidates for the presidency to call for the election result to be annulled.

President Karzai criticised the move as an affront to the hopes of the millions of Afghans who braved bad weather and the threat of terrorism to turn out to vote.

He told the BBC's Breakfast with Frost programme on Sunday that a commission would inquire into the alleged voting malpractices.

Attack fears

Counting centres have begun tallying the ballots but their task is unlikely to be completed soon - votes cast in far-flung reaches of the mountainous country will take days to arrive, some of them by donkey.

The Free and Fair Elections Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA), the single largest observer body, ruled the polls were "fairly democratic".

Another international body, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), said there were some irregularities that should be investigated.

However, OSCE Ambassador Robert Barry said "the candidates' demand to nullify the election is unjustified and would not do service to the people of Afghanistan who came out yesterday, at great personal risk, to vote".

The UN, which helped organise the poll, has praised the "massive" turnout in the election.

Correspondents say ordinary Afghans have regarded the elections with gravity and enthusiasm.

Fears that militants linked to the former Taleban regime would carry out their threat to sabotage the vote appear to have been largely unfounded.

Why confusion surrounded the poll

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