Afghanistan’s deadlocked presidential election has run into more trouble after both candidates withdrew their observers from a UN-supervised audit of votes.
Former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah was the first to do so, after calling for more rigorous fraud checks.
His opponent Ashraf Ghani followed suit. His team said it was at the UN’s request in the interests of fairness.
The former finance minister won the run-off by more than a million votes but Abdullah complained of rigging and demanded a recount.
Ghani is a member of Afghanistan’s biggest ethnic group, the Pashtuns, who make up of most the population in the south and east. Abdullah has strong support from minority Tajiks.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has played a key role in trying to reconcile the pair, both of whom claim victory.
Now US officials have intervened again to try to resolve the disputed election that was hoped would bring about Afghanistan’s first democratic transfer of power.
The crisis has raised the spectre of more turmoil in a country already fighting a Taliban insurgency.