From Andrea Mitchell and Libby Leist
Aides to Sen. John Kerry tell NBC News that he returned to Kabul tonight to continue negotiations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. And Kerry will be in place tomorrow for an anticpated announcement by Karzai about the election results. Hillary Clinton said this afternoon she was "encouraged" that Karzai will abide by the constitution and accept the Electoral Complaints Commission results that left him with 48% of the vote.
Kerry spent the day in Islamabad before returning to Kabul, where he had spent the weekend. Aides say Kerry spent a lot of one-on-one time with Karzai on Saturday and Sunday, including dinner both nights.
Kerry has been coordinating closely with the State Department. A senior State Department official said, "We have been telling Karzai ... to accept the results. That will be imporant."
If there is a runoff, the official said, the administration expects Karzai will win. Secretary Clinton, Kerry and the U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry have made it clear to Karzai that he will have U.S. support if he agrees to tackle corruption, the official said.
The official said the election mess must be sorted out in the next three to four weeks before the Winter season starts and that a runoff election would take two to three weeks to complete.
"There is still enough time barely to have a credible election," the official said.