News / Asia

Top Afghan Election Officials Resign

Afghan officials say the head of the country's Independent Election Commission and his deputy resigned Wednesday.

President Hamid Karzai's spokesman, Waheed Omar, said IEC chairman Azizullah Ludin did not wish to have his tenure extended.  He said the commission's chief electoral officer, Daoud Ali Najafi, also resigned.

The election commission oversaw last year's presidential election, which was marred by widespread fraud.  Western nations have pressed Mr. Karzai to overhaul and improve the election body.

Last week, the Afghan president angered the international community by claiming that foreign governments and the United Nations were behind the fraud in the August 20 vote.

Mr. Karzai also reportedly said the Taliban will become a "legitimate resistance movement" if outside meddling in Afghan affairs continues, and that he might join the group if outside pressure does not stop.

On Wednesday, his spokesman, Waheed Omar, said the president's office was "shocked" by the media reports and said the remarks "do not make sense."

Afghan lawmakers said Monday that President Karzai used a closed meeting last week to lash out at Western critics of his government.

The United States suggested Tuesday it might cancel a meeting between President Barack Obama and President Karzai, scheduled for May 12, if the Afghan leader continues his anti-foreign rhetoric.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Washington will evaluate Mr. Karzai's future remarks to determine if it is constructive to have a summit meeting.  

In violence Wednesday, NATO said an Afghan civilian was killed and more than a dozen others were wounded in a roadside explosion near a NATO convoy in the eastern province of Nangarhar.

NATO also said one of its soldiers was killed in southern Afghanistan Wednesday, following an insurgent engagement.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.

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