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Observer Group Describes Afghan Poll as 'Credible'

A U.S.-funded group that observed Afghanistan's presidential poll says despite reports of serious fraud, the election has so far been credible.

Richard Williamson from the International Republican Institute told reporters in Kabul Friday that its observers were present at 250 polling stations during Thursday's vote.

He described the voting process as well organized and well run.  But Williamson also said there were serious problems, including poor security, which he said affected voter turnout.   

Williamson said the threat of Taliban violence was so great that "the merchants of fear have had some success."

Other irregularities cited by the group included reports of voter registration cards being sold and problems with the indelible ink used to prevent voters from casting more than one ballot.

Williamson said such reports of fraud warrant investigation.  And he noted that Afghan state media coverage of the elections heavily favored incumbent President Hamid Karzai.  Williamson described the abuse of state resources as "alarming."

Another outside observer group, the National Democratic Institute, is scheduled to give its assessment of the election on Saturday.

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