Interim leader Hamid Karzai has won the required number of votes for outright victory in Afghanistan's first presidential election, his supporters and his chief rival said yesterday. \n"We have a simple majority. This is exactly what we want," Karzai's campaign spokesman Hamid Elmi told reporters as soon as Karzai's tally passed four million ballots around 4:00pm local time. \nKarzai, the urbane 46-year-old Pashtun who has led Afghanistan's interim administration with strong US backing for nearly three years, had the "secure majority of 50 percent plus one," presidential aide Khaleeq Ahmad said. \n"We are very delighted that we have a secure majority now. And we will wait to celebrate until 100 percent of the vote has been counted," Ahmad told reporters. \n"We will celebrate when the results are officially announced and not before that." \nKarzai's chief rival Yunus Qanooni was swift to acknowledge Karzai's majority, 15 days after the landmark ballot drew millions to vote for the first time in their lives. \n"In order to respect the nation's will, based on the numbers announced up to now, we consider Karzai the winner in the elections and he got a simple majority," Qanooni's spokesman, Sayed Hamid Noori, told reporters. \n"There were lots of cases of fraud and irregularities, which we reported. But as our candidate Mr. Qanooni has said, we shall respect the will of people even though there was fraud." \nNoori said Qanooni's acceptance of the result was also an effort to head off any potential violent reaction. \n"To avoid violence and to respect the national interests of the country... we would respect the results announced by the commission," he said. \nQanooni, former education minister in Karzai's interim cabinet, was the favorite of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance and the hero of the ethnic Tajik minority. \nKarzai's latest tally of 4,219,569 votes, based on 94.4 percent of ballots counted, gave him 55.3 percent of the estimated total vote compared with Qanooni's 16.2 percent. \nDespite the comments United Nations spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva told reporters earlier yesterday that an official declaration of results was still "a matter of days" away and declined to set an exact date. \nThe last of an estimated eight million votes must be counted and a panel probing alleged fraud must submit its findings before the result and victor can be declared, he said. \nElmi, however, said he "jumped for joy" when he received a telephone call informing him that Karzai's tally had surpassed four million, the threshold set by the campaign team for securing the simple majority needed to avoid a second-round runoff. \n"When I received the call, I jumped, actually, to call my relatives, all the campaign managers, our campaign offices all around the country to say 'Thank you,'" he said. \nElmi said he expected an official announcement from the election commission by midday today. \nElection officials have refused to acknowledge the mathematical threshold for attaining the 50-percent-plus one majority, saying that the final number of votes cast was still an estimate. \nIn addition, some 600 ballot boxes containing around 360,000 ballot papers are still in quarantine pending the outcome of the fraud probe. \n"If Karzai had 70 percent of the vote, it would be easy to declare him the winner. But since he has only around 54 percent, you cannot do it," an election official, who could not be named, told reporters. \nKarzai's unofficial victory was marred by a weekend suicide blast in Kabul, illustrating the dangers still facing the war-weary land. \nAn American woman and an Afghan girl who was selling books were killed in Saturday afternoon's attack on the city's famous "Chicken Street" shopping strip. \nResponsibility was claimed by the fundamentalist Taliban militia, which ruled the country until toppled in late 2001 by a US-led attack. \nThe two deaths brought to 21 the number of people who have been killed in militant-related violence since the historic election, overshadowing the nation's progress towards a stable democracy.
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