In this file photo an Afghan election worker carries a ballot box at an election commission office in Jalalabad east of Kabul. Picture: Rahmat Gul, File

United Nation - The UN chief and Security Council Friday praised the “courage” of Afghans who braved threats of violence to vote, following the publication of final results from the first-round presidential poll.

Afghans were voting to choose a successor to President Hamid Karzai, in what is to be Afghanistan's first democratic transfer of power and as the country enters a new era without NATO combat troops.

The two top candidates from the April 5 vote will face off in a second round scheduled for June 14.

In a unanimous declaration, all fifteen Security Council member states said they “applaud the courage of the Afghan people who participated in record numbers despite threats and intimidation by the Taliban and other extremist and terrorist groups.”

The council members “encourage the Afghan people to continue to engage in the election process as it moves forward.”

They urged the two second-round candidates and their supporters to “continue engaging with the electoral institutions and processes with patience and respect.”

The remaining candidates are former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, who took the lead in the first round with 45 percent of the votes, and economist Ashraf Ghani, who was second with 31.6 percent, according to the final results, which came after weeks of deliberation over fraud allegations.

The council members “reiterate the commitment of the international community to Afghanistan's transition,” the declaration said.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon also “sends his congratulations to the Afghan people for the courage and commitment they have shown to date in the election process,” he said in a statement.

He emphasized that the elections “mark an important step towards peaceful political transition in the country.”

This presidential vote is considered a major test for the impoverished country Ä still partly controlled by a resilient Taliban insurgency and which faces serious uncertainty as NATO withdraws at the end of the year.

Outgoing President Hamid Karzai has ruled Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, but he was constitutionally barred from seeking a third term.