Afghan president's brother withdraws from election, backs ex-minister

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 06, 2014 2:03 AM

KABUL (Reuters) - The Afghan president's brother, Qayum Karzai, said on Wednesday he was withdrawing from next month's presidential election and would back former foreign minister Zalmai Rassoul.

The pullout was widely anticipated after Karzai failed to show up for a televised debate this week.

"I will go to every mosque, every room and every guesthouse to get this team elected," Karzai told reporters on the sidelines of a conference after announcing his withdrawal.

"We are hoping to win on the first round. This team represents the only hope for stability in this country."

Rassoul said negotiations on the election alliance had been taking place for two to three weeks.

"This is good for Afgthanistan and good for democracy."

The election is taking place against a backdrop of uncertainty and deteriorating security as U.S.-led forces in the country since the Taliban were ousted in 2001 are due to withdraw by the end of the year.

With just under a month to go before the vote, speculation has heightened about alliances between the hopefuls remaining in the race. Both Rassoul and Karzai belong to the majority Pashtun ethnic group.

The main opposition candidate, Abdullah Abdullah, said he was unconcerned about rivals joining forces. He narrowly lost the 2009 election to incumbent Hamid Karzai.

Hamid Karzai is barred by the constitution from seeking a third term. He has not offered his backing to any of the candidates.

(Reporting by Katharine Houreld and Mirwais Harooni; Writing by Jessica Donati; Editing by Ron Popeski)