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Afghan Candidates Demand Karzai Resign - 2004-08-18

Some of Afghanistan's opposition candidates for president are demanding that transitional leader Hamid Karzai resign from office before the coming election.

Candidates running against Mr. Karzai accused the president of holding unfair advantage by remaining in office. Their statement said his position allowed him to influence the campaign, citing as an example, Mr. Karzai's appointing members of the election commission.

The group wants Mr. Karzai to resign until the conclusion of the October 9 presidential election. They also want a new election commission to be chosen without Mr. Karzai's input.

Speaking on behalf of the candidates, presidential hopeful and former justice minister, Abdul-Satar Serat, issued an ultimatum.

He said that if Mr. Karzai does not agree to leave office within one-week's time, the candidates will consider boycotting the election.

Under the new Afghan constitution, ratified in January, high public officials are barred from running for president. An exception was made for Mr. Karzai, under the premise that selecting an interim leader to replace him until the election would prove too difficult.

The ban on officials serving as candidates prompted Education Minister Yonous Qanooni to resign his post in order to run in the election.

Mr. Karzai was chosen as interim president by a grand council of Afghan leaders in 2002, after the United States joined with dissident Afghan militias to oust the previous Taleban regime.

The October vote for president and an election in April for a new parliament are Afghanistan's first free national elections after decades of war.