In ominous sign, Afghan government partner berates President Ghani

August 12, 2016 1:47 AM EDT

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani (L) and Afghanistan's Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah arrive at the PGE National Stadium, the venue of the NATO Summit, in Warsaw, Poland July 8, 2016. REUTERS/Jerzy Dudek

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KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan government chief executive Abdullah Abdullah has sharply criticized President Ashraf Ghani, a dramatic public break that exposed long-simmering tension within the former election rivals' fragile unity government.

Abdullah's televised remarks brought fresh questions about the stability of the coalition formed in 2014 after both Ghani and Abdullah claimed victory in a presidential election and there were fears of armed clashes between their supporters.

Abdullah said late on Thursday that Ghani did not deserve to govern as he had failed to work collaboratively or to enact electoral reforms.

The post of chief executive was created for former foreign minister Abdullah as part of a U.S.-brokered deal to end deadlock over the election.

But he complained he had been left out of key decisions, and painted Ghani as arrogant and out of touch with the deteriorating situation in the country.

"The government is paralyzed and ministers do not have the chance to speakā€¦ (Ghani) provides a one-hour lecture but he should listen to the ministers for 15 minutes," he said.

"If someone does not have tolerance, they do not deserve the presidency."

In a statement, Ghani's office said Abdullah's speech was "not in accordance with the principle and spirit of governance", but there would be a "serious and effective" discussion of his concerns.

Abdullah and Ghani have officially shared power since 2014 but the set-up has never appeared to satisfy either side.

While rivalry between the camps has been no secret, until now, Abdullah largely kept his complaints private.

Abdullah's criticism comes at a particularly sensitive time, as the government has yet to officially confirm Abdullah's position past a September deadline that had been set for doing so, or to clear up the problems that plagued the last election.

Taliban insurgents have also made considerable gains in recent month in different parts of the country. Government forces have suffered heavy casualties since taking over full responsibility for security after most foreign troops withdrew at the end of 2014.

Despite the criticism, Abdullah said he would not leave the unity government and said he planned to meet Ghani to discuss their differences.

(Reporting by Mirwais Harooni; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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