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Published: Monday June 23, 2014 MYT 8:50:22 PM
Updated: Monday June 23, 2014 MYT 8:51:52 PM

Senior Afghan election official resigns amid fraud allegations

Afghan demonstrators burn their election ID cards during a protest in support of presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah in Herat province, June 22, 2014.  REUTERS/Mohammad Shoib

Afghan demonstrators burn their election ID cards during a protest in support of presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah in Herat province, June 22, 2014. REUTERS/Mohammad Shoib

KABUL (Reuters) - A senior official of Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission (IEC) stepped down on Monday amid allegations that he organised a fraudulent run-off vote, charges he denied.

Pressure has been mounting on the commission to suspend the head of the IEC secretariat, Zia-ul-Haq Amarkhil, after presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah accused him of organising vote fraud in the second-round run-off elections on June 14.

"Today, for the sake of confidence building, ... I have resigned from my post in the presence of IEC leadership," Amarkhil told reporters.

The election comes at a delicate time as most foreign troops leave the country by the end of the year, leaving behind a still strong Taliban insurgency and deepening economic crisis.

Abdullah's party on Sunday aired what it said were the intercepted phone call recordings of Amarkhil that purports to show him talking to officials in several provinces ordering them to stuff ballot boxes.

Amarkhil questioned the authenticity of the tape.

"That was a fake and made-up tape to confuse public opinion... I reject it in the strongest terms," he said. "...I believe in elections and I believe in justice and I believe in democracy."

IEC chief Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani said the audio tapes had no connection to Amarkhil's resignation and the IEC did not ask him to resign.

The run-off election pitted former anti-Taliban fighter Abdullah Abdullah against ex-World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani after neither secured the 50 percent majority needed to win outright in the first round on April 5.

(Reporting by Mirwais Harooni and Hamid Shalizi; writing by Praveen Menon; editing by Nick Macfie)

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