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UN Says April Afghan Elections Nearly Impossible

A senior United Nations official said it will be very difficult for Afghanistan to hold credible elections earlier than July. Peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy's comment on Monday echoed concerns raised by NATO, the United States, and Afghanistan's political opposition after Afghan President Hamid Karzai asked his country's Independent Election Commission on Saturday to move the date from August to April.

Alain Le Roy said the United Nations has maintained for weeks that it considers the August 20th date set by Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission "very reasonable," and that it would be "almost impossible" to get credible elections before then.

"We consider that election -- the U.N. system and UNDP -- which is in charge of assisting the Afghan authorities -- an election before July, would be at least for security, but mostly for logistical and technical reasons, very difficult to organize," he said.

He added that the United Nations understands the constitutional debate going on in Afghanistan, because August 20 is not within the timeframe set in the constitution, which prompted President Karzai's decree over the weekend.

Le Roy told reporters that having the election in April presents a host of problems, including the procurement of election materials and ballots, as well as having the necessary funds -- some $220 million -- to pay for the vote.

"There is a lot of technical ground that is needed to make the election credible. We consider it almost impossible to do before July," Le Roy said.

Asked whether Afghanistan could run a credible election without technical assistance from the United Nations, Le Roy said Kabul has asked for the world body's help and that it is clear there is a need for that help.

President Karzai's decree to move the election up has been widely questioned. The United States military and NATO have said that there is a greater chance for a safe and secure vote if it is held on August 20, as originally planned.

That date was chosen, in part, to give 17,000 incoming U.S. troops time to improve security in the country.

Mr. Karzai's political opponents have criticized the move, saying it is intended to improve his chances of re-election.

But the Afghan president said he wants the elections to be held in accordance with the country's constitution, which calls for a vote 30-to-60 days before his term expires on May 21.

Afghanistan's election commission has not formally commented on the decree.