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Thousands of Observers to Monitor Afghan Poll

Afghan officials say thousands of independent observers are expected to monitor the historic parliamentary elections September 18 to ensure the polls are fair.

Officials of the joint U.N.-Afghan election commission say preparations remain on track for polling on September 18, saying they are confident that enough observers will be on hand to ensure thorough oversight of the process.

They say that security remains the prime concern after a recent surge in violence, but Afghan voters also have to be assured polling will be fair.

Chief of operations of the Joint Electoral Management body, Richard Atwood, told a news conference in Kabul Wednesday that his organization has accredited thousands of independent observers, including foreigners, to monitor the election process.

"The European Union Election Observation Mission has already deployed 29 teams across the country. Observers are currently observing key activities in the provincial offices," said Mr. Atwood. "We are confident that observers and candidate agents will provide the necessary oversight of the election process."

Nearly a year after electing Hamid Karzai as president, Afghans are going to the polls September 18 to elect a 249-seat lower-house of parliament and local councils in all 34 provinces.

The parliamentary elections are the final step in an internationally agreed process aimed at setting up a democratic government in Afghanistan.

Guerillas of the ousted Taleban government have denounced the election and have stepped up attacks to disrupt the polls. In addition to targeting local and international security forces around the country, suspected Taleban militants also have killed several election officials and candidates.