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Afghan Elections Face Cash Shortfall - 2004-06-07


The scheduled elections in Afghanistan face another potential delay due to a cash shortage. U.N. officials say international pledges of funds for the elections have not come through.

Manoel de Almeida e Silva, spokesman for the U.N. mission in Afghanistan, says the elections, already put off once, could be delayed again if cash pledged by international donors does not begin to flow.

"We do not yet have any money, not one cent, in the bank yet," he said. "And that's of concern because a number of services and goods must be ordered now so that they're ready for the September elections. And to order them we need to have the cash."

Mr. Almeida said that $101 million is needed for the elections. He says only $70 million had been pledged, still leaving the United Nations electoral effort with a $31 million shortfall.

Mr. Almeida says he is confident that the money will come through. But time, he says, is getting very short. Items such as ballot boxes and voter screens have to be ordered now if they are to be in place for the September balloting.

"We trust that the money will come," he said. "I don't think there's any doubt that the donors will do it because they understand what it means and they are fully supportive of this process. The question is the timeliness of it because between now and July 1, in order to place a number of orders we need $87 million in the bank. And that's our concern."

The elections, both presidential and parliamentary, were originally scheduled for June. Citing concerns about security and slow voter registration, interim President Hamid Karzai moved the date to September.

Mr. Almeida says three million out of an estimated 9.5 million eligible voters have now been registered, and voter registration sites have now been opened in every province. A third of the newly registered voters, he says, are women.

But security remains a worry. On Sunday an electoral team came under fire in southeast Afghanistan on the road from Gardez to Khost. No one was hurt, but Mr. Almeida says the ambush underscores what he called "grave concerns" about security for the electoral process.

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