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Karzai says he encouraged elder brother to quit.

KABUL (Pajhwok): President Hamid Karzai has said he encouraged his older brother Abdul Qayum Karzai to withdraw from the presidential race as his dropout would help smoothen the process and stop interference from abroad.

"In the previous election there was much external interference and I strongly feel that my brother's withdrawal will smoothen the election process and limit excuses for such intervention as was seen previously," Karzai told reporters in Sari Lanka.

"Peace is an imperative for progress and I hope Afghanistan will also be able to see peace. We will engage with any country including the US to achieve peace and development," he added.

Four agreements on migrant workers, education and sports were signed between the Sri Lankan and Afghanistan governments on Thursday during a meeting between the presidents of the two countries.

Qayum dropped out on Thursday and endorsed former foreign minister Zalmai Rassoul. "I and my team, we consider ourselves as a key part of this new alliance and declare my support for Doctor Zalmai Rassoul," Qayum Karzai told a press conference after his withdrawal.

Qayum exit leaves 10 candidates in the election, including opposition leader Abdullah Abdullah, who came second in the chaotic and fraud-riddled 2009 election, and former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai.

The elder Karzai Friday told The Associated Press he dropped out of the election to leave the field open to a candidate that he hoped would steer the nation through a "dignified" transition.

He believed the majority of voters remained undecided in the upcoming election. He said he's thrown his support behind Rassoul as a means to unify a country battered by 35 years of war.

"Overall I think that the people themselves have matured enormously in politics," Qayum said. "They know exactly who is who and so my trust is in the people."

In Sari Lanka, President Karzai told reporters in Colombo that peace and a decent life guaranteed human rights, according to a statement issued from the Presidential Palace in Kabul.

It quoted Karzai as saying his country witnessed human rights violations on a daily basis as a result of the conflict and subsequent factors.

Karzai insisted he had no preferred candidate and those remaining in the race had been in his administration and known to him.

"My best wishes are with them. For me, the great achievement will be fair and transparent elections and that the Afghans choose their leader with their votes, someone who will be my president."

Karzai also said the US was not going to completely withdraw from Afghanistan and if a bilateral security agreement was signed, a limited residual US force would stay. He said all presidential candidates had said they would sign the security agreement with Washington.

The statement from the Presidential Palace said President Karzai returned from Sari Lanka on Friday.

Karzai , 56, also traveled to New Delhi, where his wife gave birth to a baby girl, their third child. Karzai briefly visited the private house to see his wife, 44, and new child as he flew on to Sri Lanka. Both of Karzai's other children - a son and a daughter - were born in Afghanistan, but due to an unspecified "medical complication" Karzai's wife Zinat was advised to travel to seek specialised care in India, according to the Afghan ambassador in New Delhi.


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Publication:Pajhwok Afghan News (Kabul, Afghanistan)
Geographic Code:9AFGH
Date:Mar 7, 2014
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