The UN official investigating allegations of election fraud in Afghanistan's presidential poll has said his team will not be rushed, despite increasing frustrations about the delay in declaring a final result.
Grant Kippen told Al Jazeera on Saturday that it would be next week before the Electoral Complaints Commission can even say how long their investigation will take.
Preliminary results have given Hamid Karzai, the incumbent president, 54.6 per cent of the vote, enough to avoid a second round runoff against his main rival Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister who has 27.7 per cent.
But election observers from the European Union have said that up to 1.5 million of the ballots could be fraudulent, leaving open the possibility for a dramatic swing in fortunes if any are annulled after the investigation.
"Within next week we will have a better idea of the timeline we require at least on the investigation side," Kippen said.
"We are investigating complaints we receive and we will participate in this audit and recount when it gets going by the IEC [Afghan Independent Election Commission] and we will let the facts speak for themselves - we won't prejudge."
The UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) has ordered recounts at more than 2,500 polling stations, around 10 percent of the total, after it found "clear and convincing evidence of fraud".
There have been claims of large-scale ballot stuffing in the August 20 poll, with allegations that turnout exceeded 100 per cent in some areas.
The commission will decide whether the preliminary results stand, a two-man runoff is required or if ballots need to be re-run in some areas where fraud has taken place.
Its decisions are final under Afghanistan's electoral law.
However, Prince Ali Seraj, a former presidential candidate and Karzai supporter, said that the lengthy investigation process and possible run-off was harming the country and playing into the hands of the Taliban.
"Afghanistan cannot afford another day of this uncertainty with not having a leadership. We need a leadership in place in order for us to go about our business," he told Al Jazeera.
"Taking Afghanistan into a second round is going to take Afghanistan into disaster.
"This round ... under dire conditions still 35 per cent of the people came out to vote. The Western world should throw their hats up in the air at this.
"In the second round you would be lucky if you get 10 per cent of the people coming out, especially since after the first election people's fingers were cut off, their noses were cut off, their ears were cut off, they have been threatened by the Taliban."
If a second round run-off is declared it is unclear when it could take place as Afghanistan's harsh winter would shortly make voting virtually impossible.
Zekria Barakzai, deputy chief of the Afghan election commission, said it would take three to five weeks to organise a new vote.
Karzai has acknowledged difficulties in the polling, but says he will only accept a second round of voting following a legal recounting process rather than to simply satisfy those who have made the allegations of fraud.
"We cannot claim a wrong and then commit another wrong in order to make a right," he told CNN television in an interview broadcast on Thursday.
"... taking it to a second round or a run-off by engineering it in that direction, that is election fraud and not the right thing to do."
Leon Panetta, the director of the US Central Intelligence Agency, said on Friday that there was clearly "some degree of corruption and fraud", but Karzai would likely emerge as the winner.
"I think that what appears to be the case is that even after they eliminate some of the votes that resulted because of fraud, that Karzai ... still looks like the individual who is going to win that election," he told US-funded Voice of America.