| ||Former Afghan minister eyes run for president|
The Associated Press
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PANJSHIR VALLEY — Afghanistan's former foreign minister and a key member of the opposition to President Hamid Karzai indicated Friday that he will run in the country's August presidential election.
Dr. Abdullah said he will likely represent a wide coalition of Afghans unhappy with Karzai's rule.
Abdullah was a leading member of the Northern Alliance — a group of warlords and politicians from Afghanistan's north who helped oust the Taliban during the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. The Northern Alliance no longer exists as a formal structure.
Abdullah on Friday hosted reporters at his family compound in the Panjshir Valley, about two hours north of Kabul, the capital. He did not formally announce his candidacy, saying he would likely do so next week, but the lunch was filled with hints of his intentions.
"We are discussing it with many, many parties and potential candidates. It shows our intention to have a sort of grand coalition," Abdullah said.
Abdullah, who like many Afghans goes by one name, would be one of the most serious candidates to join the race, which is seen as a crucial test for Afghanistan's young democracy as the country battles a violent Taliban-led insurgency.
Karzai has also heavily hinted that he intends to run in the Aug. 20 election, as have a number of former and current government officials.
Abdullah's possible nomination by the National Front — the most serious opposition party in Afghanistan — would represent a strong challenge to Karzai.
Abdullah would likely draw many votes from Afghanistan's north, including members of the former Northern Alliance, which withstood the Soviet onslaught in the 1980s.
Abdullah is of mixed ethnic background. His father is Pashtun, the dominant group in Afghanistan, while his mother is Tajik. Tajiks make up about 25 percent of the country's 30 million people. Karzai is an ethnic Pashtun. Pashtuns make up roughly 45 percent of the country.
Abdullah was a close confidant of Ahmad Shah Massoud, the ethnic Tajik leader of the Northern Alliance who was killed by two al-Qaida members posing as journalists two days before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.
Speaking inside the garden of his family compound, Abdullah said he would like to see a level playing field for all presidential candidates. He accused Karzai of using the government apparatus to help his re-election bid, a common complaint from Karzai opponents.
Abdullah, who has sometimes been called Abdullah Abdullah, served as Afghan foreign minister from late 2001 until March 2006, when Karzai reshuffled his Cabinet.