President Hamid Karzai's rival in the second round of the Afghan presidential election has announced in Kabul that he is withdrawing from the poll.
"I will not participate in the election," Dr Abdullah told supporters, saying his demands for ensuring a fraud-free election had not been met.
But he stopped short of calling for a boycott of next Saturday's vote. Mr Karzai had rejected his demand that election officials who presided over the first round should be dismissed.
According to BBC's Andrew North, in Kabul The international community - the United Nations which is leading the effort to organise the elections with the Afghans, the US and British militaries - do not want a one-man contest to go ahead which would mean putting their personnel's lives on the line.
What I am hearing is that there is pressure for the Afghan Election Commission to make an announcement and then for the Supreme Court to get involved, which would then lead to this process being brought to an end before there can be a run-off next Saturday.
President Karzai's spokesman Waheed Omar said the withdrawal was "very unfortunate", but the election should go ahead as planned.
"The process has to complete itself, the people of Afghanistan have to be given the right to vote.
Earlier, the US said a pull-out would not invalidate the vote's legitimacy. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters in the United Arab Emirates: "We see that happen in our own country where, for whatever combination of reasons, one of the candidates decides not to go forward."
But the BBC's Andrew North, in Kabul, says Abdullah Abdullah's withdrawal means this is uncharted territory, and it is unclear what will happen next.
Asked by reporters if he was calling for his supporters to boycott the vote planned for next Saturday, Dr Abdullah said: "I have not made that call".
There has been much speculation that there could be some kind of deal which would possibly see the emergence of a national unity government, our correspondent says.
While it is far from a done deal, talks are going on behind the scenes towards such a formation.
But Dr Abdullah said his decision had not been made "in exchange for anything from anybody, but only and purely in the interests of the people of Afghanistan and to give the people of Afghanistan a chance to move on."
The international community is known to be very reluctant for the run-off to take place.
Instead there is a desire for the legal institutions of Afghanistan to come up with measures to bring the electoral process to an end.
A statement from the Afghan Election Commission is also expected.
Hundreds of thousands of votes were discounted from August's first round of voting, which was
An investigation by the UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) led to Mr Karzai's share of the vote dropping to 49.67% - below the crucial 50% plus one vote threshold needed to avoid a second round.
Dr Abdullah was adjudged in the end to have won about 31% of valid votes cast. Emotion was clearly visible in Dr Abdullah's face as he announced his decision to pull out of the race to be Afghan leader on Sunday, our correspondent says.
The decision was given to his supporters at a meeting in a big tent in Kabul, where Afghanistan's first post-Taliban government was agreed eight years ago.
Dr Abdullah - a Tajik-Pashtun former eye surgeon - served as foreign minister in the short-lived government headed by the Northern Alliance, and continued as "foreign minister in exile" throughout the years of Taliban rule, which ended in 2001.
He continued in the role in the government that was formed by President Karzai after the fall of the Taliban in 2001, leaving it five years later.
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