Abdullah claims victory in contested Afghan election

KABUL - Presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah claimed victory on Tuesday in Afghanistan's disputed election, blaming fraud for putting him behind poll rival Ashraf Ghani in preliminary results.

"We are proud, we respect the votes of the people, we were the winner," Abdullah told thousands of cheering supporters gathered in Kabul.

"We will not accept a fraudulent result - not today, not tomorrow, never." The election stand-off has raised fears of ethnic unrest and a return to the conflict between warlords that ravaged Afghanistan during the 1992 - 1996 civil war.

But Abdullah called for the country to remain unified as it faces a difficult transfer of power after President Hamid Karzai's 13-year reign and as 50,000 US-led troops wind down their battle against Taliban insurgents.

"We don't want partition of Afghanistan, we want to preserve national unity and the dignity of Afghanistan," he said.

"We don't want civil war, we don't want a crisis. We want stability, national unity, not division."