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Taliban Vows to Disrupt Afghan Election

The Taliban says it intends to disrupt next month's presidential elections in Afghanistan, and has urged Afghans to stay away from the polls and attack foreigners.

In a statement Thursday, the extremist group called the August 20 vote an "American process" designed to deceive the Afghan people.

The group said that, instead of going to what it called "fake election centers," Afghans should fight to free their country from foreign invaders.

In violence Thursday, four Afghan troops were killed in a roadside blast in southern Helmand province, while the NATO-led force said one of its soldiers died in an insurgent attack in the south.

In another development, the Spanish government said its 780-strong presence in Afghanistan could be elevated to 1,000 if the situation there requires it.

However, Italy said it was looking for an exit strategy from Afghanistan after the August 20 poll.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said that any withdrawal would be agreed on with Italy's international partners.

Violence in Afghanistan has been surging, with thousands of U.S. Marines, and British and Afghan troops engaged in a major anti-Taliban offensive in Helmand to provide security for Afghan voters.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.