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KARZAI CLINCHES MAJORITY OF VOTES FOR PRESIDENCY

Hamid Karzai clinched a majority of the votes in Afghanistan's first presidential election, near-complete results showed Sunday, leaving him all but certain of becoming his war-wrecked nation's first democratically elected leader.

His chief rival, former Education Minister Yunus Qanooni, announced he was willing to accept the election result, but only if irregularities in the vote were acknowledged by a panel of foreign investigators.

"For the national interest and so the country does not go into crisis, we will respect the result of the election," said Syed Hamid Noori, spokesman for Qanooni. "But we also want the fraud to be made clear."

By Sunday evening, Karzai had received 4,240,041 votes, more than half of the estimated 8,129,935 valid votes cast in the Oct. 9 ballot, the joint U.N.-Afghan electoral board said. This means that even if all the remaining estimated votes went to other candidates, Karzai would still have more than the 50 percent necessary to avoid a runoff.

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