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Afghans Prepare to Count Votes from Presidential Poll - 2004-10-10

Officials in Afghanistan are preparing to count votes after a historic presidential election tainted by allegations of fraud.

Ballot boxes from polling stations across the country are being moved to counting centers Sunday, with the tally expected to begin Monday.

Millions of Afghans turned out to vote Saturday despite threats by supporters of the former Taleban government to disrupt the poll.

Midway through election day, 15 candidates opposed to interim President Hamid Karzai demanded the election be scrapped. They claimed some people had voted more than once, that polls closed prematurely in opposition areas and that voters were pressured to cast their ballots for Mr. Karzai.

But independent observers gave their approval to the country's first presidential election, saying a "fairly democratic environment was generally observed in the overall majority of polling centers".

Election officials promised to investigate the allegations, but said ballot counting would go ahead.