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Top US official urges Afghans to unite for Taliban talks amid election dispute

Washington: The United States on Tuesday urged Afghan leaders to unite for upcoming talks with the Taliban, pointedly not congratulating President Ashraf Ghani on his disputed victory.
In a statement a week after the results were published, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said the US “notes” the announcement and warned against “destabilising actions.” She confirmed that Ghani had agreed to postpone the presidential inauguration that had been set for Thursday -- two days before the expected US signing of a peace deal with the Taliban.
“The Afghan people want peace. It is time to focus not on electoral politics, but on taking steps toward a lasting peace.” She called for feuding leaders to set up “an agreed national framework for peace that is fully representative” to prepare for talks with the Taliban, which are expected to begin in March.
The State Department specifically warned against “purported efforts to establish parallel government structures,” in a clear reference to a call by Ghani’s rival Abdullah Abdullah to set up a rival government. (AFP)