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Kerry meets with Afghan presidential candidates

Friday - 7/11/2014, 4:50pm  ET

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Secretary of State John Kerry has been trying to work out a deal today between Afghanistan's rival presidential candidates.

He met with the two candidates, and with the country's current leader, Hamid Karzai, during a hastily-arranged visit to the Afghan capital.

The U.S. is hoping to persuade both candidates to hold off on declaring victory or trying to set up a government until the U.N. can conduct an audit of the extensive fraud allegations in the voting.

As he met with the U.N. chief in Afghanistan, Kerry told reporters that it's a "very, very critical moment" for that country, and that "the future potential of the transition hangs in the balance."

He says the United States is trying to create a process that confers legitimacy on whoever emerges as the rightful leader of Afghanistan.

As he began a meeting with Kerry, candidate Abdullah Abdullah praised Kerry's efforts toward "saving the democratic process" there.

Abdullah has blamed massive fraud for the preliminary results showing his rival, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai (ahsh-RAHF' gah-NEE' ah-mahd-ZEYE'), with a clear lead.

%@AP Links

118-a-12-(Secretary of State John Kerry, in remarks at the beginning of his meeting with Afghan presidential candidate and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani)-"and stable Afghanistan"-Secretary of State John Kerry says he hopes to help Afghanistan's presidential candidates work toward a diplomatic solution. (11 Jul 2014)

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120-a-04-(Abdullah Abdullah, Afghan presidential candidate and former foreign minister, in remarks at the beginning of his meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry)-"the democratic process"-Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah says Afghanistan's path forward hangs in the balance. (11 Jul 2014)

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APPHOTO CAIHK110: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, is greeted by Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai as he arrives for a dinner at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, July 11, 2014. Kerry visited Afghanistan in hopes of diffusing a crisis over the runoff presidential election to find a successor for outgoing President Karzai. (AP Photo/Jim Bourg, Pool) (11 Jul 2014)

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