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Obama Team Meets on Afghanistan Runoff


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U.S. President Barack Obama has held consultations with the American ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, on efforts to prevent voter fraud in the country's upcoming presidential election.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said officials from Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission (IEC) also took part in the one-hour video conference call with the president Thursday.

Gibbs said Mr. Obama examined the current political situation in Afghanistan, as part of his continuing assessment of whether to send more U.S. troops there. He said the discussions aimed "to fix what went wrong" in the country's August election, which was marred by voter fraud.

The problems led election officials to call for a runoff vote between President Hamid Karzai and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah.

Gibbs said President Obama wants to ensure the November 7 vote is seen as legitimate by the Afghan people and the international community.

President Obama is considering a new strategy in Afghanistan, including a request from the top U.S. general in that country, Stanley McChrystal for tens of thousands more troops.

Earlier Thursday, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he would ask NATO allies to bolster their support in Afghanistan, but he would not publicly discuss whether he will recommend sending more U.S. troops there.

Gates is meeting with NATO defense minister in the Slovak capital Bratislava.

Gates said he will seek more help from NATO countries on civilian matters such as good governance and training security forces in Afghanistan.

Also Thursday, the NATO secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, called for greater engagement in Afghanistan, saying the war there is the most complex challenge the alliance has ever undertaken.

Election workers are now preparing for the task of organizing another nationwide vote in less than three weeks. Their logistical difficulties are compounded by concerns that remote areas of the country could soon be isolated by winter snows.

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