Updated: 06/23/2014 21:09 | By Agence France-Presse

Abdullah 'open to talks' after Afghan election official quits

A top Afghan election official accused of fraud resigned Monday, raising the chances of a breakthrough in a political deadlock that threatens to derail the country's presidential election as NATO troops withdraw.

Abdullah 'open to talks' after Afghan election official quits

File picture shows Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah during a press conference at his residence in Kabul on June 15, 2014 - by Wakil Kohsar

Zia-ul-Haq Amarkhail, head of the secretariat of the Independent Election Commission (IEC), denied all charges against him but said he was stepping down to save the election process.

Election candidate Abdullah Abdullah has boycotted the vote count, accusing the IEC of being biased against him after the run-off vote against his rival Ashraf Ghani a week ago.

"Now the door is open for us to talk to the (election) commission and talk about the conditions and circumstances that will help the process," Abdullah told reporters after Amarkhail resigned.

Abdullah's campaign team on Sunday released audio recordings that they said contained evidence of fraud committed by Amarkhail.

"For the sake of Afghanistan, for the sake of the election process, I am resigning from my post," Amarkhail said.

"I have resigned only to protect the election process, and so that Dr Abdullah Abdullah can put an end to his boycott and resume his relationship with the IEC.

"The audio recordings regarding fraud were fake."

The dispute has threatened to pitch Afghanistan into crisis as NATO combat troops end their 13-year war against Taliban insurgents.

A smooth election is seen as a key benchmark of success for the US-led coalition that has fought against the Taliban and donated billions of dollars in aid since 2001.

Reports of the ongoing vote count suggested that Ghani had made a surprise comeback after finishing behind Abdullah in the first-round election on April 5.

Abdullah has said he considered the election authorities "illegitimate" and has alleged that in several provinces there were more votes than eligible voters.

He faced Ghani in the run-off vote after the two came first and second in an eight-man first-round election, when Abdullah won 45 percent against Ghani's 31.6 percent.

The preliminary election result is due on July 2 and the final result, after adjudication of complaints, is scheduled for July 22.

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