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Officials Working on Final Date for Afghan Elections - 2004-07-03


Election officials in Afghanistan are consulting with the government and political parties to fix a final date for historic parliamentary and presidential elections, which are set for September. The officials are calling reports that the polls will again be delayed mere speculation.

Officials of the joint U.N.-Afghan electoral management body say no decision has been made on a date.

The institution's spokesman, Mohammed Azam, tells VOA they are still in the process of consulting with the government and the political parties.

"This consultation has been required by the electoral law, that just before announcing the election date the joint electoral management body should consult with the government, with the registered political parties and that is what we are doing now," he said.

The elections were to be held in June, but a low-level insurgency led by Afghanistan's ousted Taleban Islamic government forced a postponement until September. Under the election laws, a date has to be fixed 90 days before voters go to the polls.

Mr. Azam says the consultation process is focusing on issues such as the security situation, the status of the campaign to disarm factional militias and the financial situation. Until that is done, the date can not be set.

"We have not come yet to a concrete conclusion, and once we come to that point we will declare it through the proper channels to the Afghan nation and also to the world," he explained.

Other Afghan officials say September 30 is being suggested as the election date.

U.N. officials in Kabul have said that another delay should not be seen as what they call "a major drama".

The Taleban has vowed to disrupt the elections, which it says are meant to strengthen the U.S-backed government in Kabul. Taleban loyalists have been attacking foreign and government soldiers. In recent weeks they have targeted election officials and prospective voters, killing dozens of people.

Despite the attacks, interim President Hamid Karzai and officials of the U.S-led security coalition have repeatedly vowed to hold the election in September.

Some 60,000 foreign and local security forces are being deployed to protect polling stations and ensure security for candidates and voters. More than half of the estimated 9.5 million eligible Afghans have registered to vote. Officials say the total is rising by 125,000 a day.

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