Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Friday intervened for the first time in the country's growing election crisis, backing a call for UN mediation to help solve the standoff over alleged fraud.
Abdullah Abdullah, previously seen as the front-runner to succeed Karzai, has asked for the UN to step in and said he would reject the result due out next month because of "blatant" fraud committed in the run-off vote a week ago.
The dispute has thrown the country's first democratic transfer of power into turmoil, to the dismay of international backers looking for a concrete sign of progress after 13 years of costly military and civilian assistance.
Karzai appeared keen to calm tensions ahead of demonstrations planned in Kabul on Saturday by Abdullah's supporters, after the ongoing vote count reportedly put Abdullah behind poll rival Ashraf Ghani.
The proposed rallies raised fears of violent clashes with security forces at a sensitive time for Afghanistan as NATO combat troops withdraw by the end of the year.
"I not only accept this proposal (for possible UN mediation), but I see it as positive step to ending these problems," Karzai said in a statement.
"The disputes and doubts arising during the election process are a natural thing," he added.
"It is fine and calm in the country."
The UN did not immediately respond to Karzai's statement, but on Wednesday it described Abdullah's decision to suspend all cooperation with the election authorities as "regrettable".