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KABUL, Afghanistan — Secretary of State John Kerry was hailed as a hero in Afghanistan on Monday after he helped end a paralyzing presidential election impasse that had raised fears the country would once again tip into civil war.
"John Kerry is the greatest American and the best friend of Afghanistan. He helped prevent this country from going to civil war two times," said 29-year-old Kabul shopkeeper Maqsood Parwani. "I wish if we could elect him as our president, but we cannot so hope the American people elect him as their president."
After more than 20 hours of talks over two days, Kerry convinced presidential hopefuls Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah to agree to a U.N.-supervised recount of all the ballots cast in June 14 runoff elections.
Former foreign minister Abdullah had refused to accept the original count, alleging widespread corruption. The impasse inflamed sectarian tensions in a way that was reminiscent of the 1990s when anti-Soviet militias turned on each other after the Russians withdrew.
"I ask the government of Afghanistan to give this tall man ... Afghan citizenship so he might be able to run for president next time."
Kerry helped broker a deal that created a new chief minister position after a recount of the vote. He did the same in the disputed 2009 elections, when he convinced a reluctant President Hamid Karzai to accept a run-off.
There has been an outpouring of admiration for Kerry on social media as well as on the streets of Kabul.
Kerry should be nominated for Nobel Peace Prize, prominent member of parliament Dr. Mohiuddin Mahdi posted on his Facebook page. Others have called him the greatest friend of Afghanistan.
Taxi driver Noor Ahmad said he was happy and excited that the deal had been reached with Kerry’s help.
“I ask the government of Afghanistan to give this tall man — I call him Jan Agha — Afghan citizenship so he might be able to run for president next time," the 47-year-old said, using a title of honor to refer to Kerry. "I am so grateful for Jan Agha’s tireless efforts to bring our politicians together and help end the uncertainty."
“Thank you, Mr. John,” Ahmad added in English.