Afghan vote crisis 'costing billions', says finance minister

The political crisis is affecting trade, as David Loyn reports

Afghanistan's finance minister has said deadlock over the disputed presidential election has cost the economy $5bn.

Omar Zakhilwal told the BBC he would have to cut salaries and lay off government workers if the crisis was not resolved by the end of the month.

Foreign investment is at a standstill and government revenues have fallen sharply since the April vote.

Two contenders have claimed victory but have so far failed to reach a deal on a government of national unity.

A full audit of the votes is still under way under United Nations scrutiny.

But the BBC's David Loyn in Kabul says the audit could take weeks to complete.

The two leaders competing for power, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, have failed to reach a deal despite a personal intervention from US President Barack Obama.

Our correspondent says there is a worsening air of crisis and that prices of basic foods have risen sharply, while the Taliban have staged some of their biggest assaults for many years, taking ground in the south and east.

Mr Zakhilwal told the BBC that cuts he had already made in non-essential spending had had a "depressive effect" on the economy, and the continuing political uncertainty was having an impact in every corner of the economy.

Ashraf Ghani, who was leading in preliminary results, has most to lose from conceding too much ground before the final result is known.

His rival Abdullah Abdullah has accused election officials of "massive fraud". Many of his senior supporters want him to take a tougher line, believing that their candidate won the vote.

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