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Karzai's Afghanistan Victory "Illegal"

Afghan President Hamid Karzai's challenger in the recent presidential election said Wednesday that the current government cannot bring legitimacy to the troubled nation and will not be able to rein in corruption.

Former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah said the Afghan Independent Election Commission's decision not to have a runoff election after a fraud-marred first round was not legal. A government that emerges out of such a ruling "cannot bring legitimacy, cannot fight corruption," Abdullah said.

But Abdullah said he was not personally challenging the commission's declaration of Karzai as president.

Special Report: Afghanistan

"That government cannot bring legitmacy, cannot fight corruption," Abdullah said, adding that it "cannot deal with all the challenges, especially the threat of terrorism, security problems, poverty, unemployment and many others."

"The process has completed itself with that final, illegal decision," he said, referring to the election commission's decision.

"I leave it to the people of Afghanistan to judge," he said.

The election commission proclaimed Karzai the victor of the country's tumultuous ballot Monday, canceling the planned runoff and ending a political crisis two and a half months after a first round of voting in August that was marred by widespread fraud.

On Tuesday, Karzai vowed to clean up the Afghan government's image as a corrupt, nepotistic entity. The president told reporters he would welcome anyone from the opposition into his government and institute reforms to stamp out corruption.

After his statement, a reporter asked Abdullah about five British soldiers who were killed Tuesday in a gunfire attack in the southern province of Helmand. Afghan authorities said a policeman attacked the troops at a police checkpoint.

Abdullah expressed condolences to the families of the British soldiers killed. He used the incident, however, to criticize the Karzai administration, saying that even after eight years of international forces working to stabilize the nation, more military assistance is needed.

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