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PARIS (Reuters) - U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke said on Wednesday it did not matter to the United States if there was a run-off vote in the Afghan election but a fair ballot procedure was vital.
"The post-election phase, the phase of determining who won, is going to be critical in determining the future of Afghanistan," said Holbrooke, speaking before a meeting in Paris of international experts on Afghanistan.
He played down accusations of voting irregularities in the Aug. 20 election, saying such disputes were a normal part of the democratic process.
Partial results have shown that incumbent Hamid Karzai has a clear lead over his main rival, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, and could win re-election in a single round, but his opponents have questioned the ballot's fairness.
"During (the post-election) process, there will be many claims of irregularities. That happens in any democracy," Holbrooke said. "It happens in democracies, even when they are not in the middle of a war," he added.
He said the United States had no preferred candidate and would not be troubled if no clear victor emerged from the first round ballot.