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UN Warns Afghan Vote Results Could Spark More Violence

UN Warns Afghan Vote Results Could Spark More Violence
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United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon is warning that the announcement of Afghanistan's presidential election results could spark more violence in the country.

In a quarterly U.N. report, Mr. Ban says the level of alleged electoral irregularities has generated "significant political turbulence" leading to fears of more violence when the outcome of the August 20 vote is announced.

Preliminary results show Afghan President Hamid Karzai ahead in the polls with 54 percent of the vote, but a U.N.-backed electoral commission is investigating charges of fraud. If a large number of votes are invalidated, Mr. Karzai could end up with less than 50 percent - forcing a runoff election.

In his report, the U.N. chief also notes August was the deadliest month for Afghan civilians so far this year, partly due to an increase in violence in the run-up to the presidential vote.

The report does not give the August death toll, but said some 300 violent incidents were recorded on election day. Taliban insurgents had warned of increased attacks to discourage Afghans from heading to the polls.

The U.N. report also says 1,500 civilians were killed between January and August of this year. More than two-thirds of the civilian deaths were due to militant attacks. Coalition forces were to blame for about a quarter of civilian deaths in 2009, the majority in airstrikes.

In the country's latest violence, the governor of northern Kunduz province Mohammad Omar says at least 18 Taliban militants were killed in a gunbattle in the Dushti Archi district on Saturday.

Northern Afghanistan has seen a recent increase in militant activity following years of relative peace in the region.

In the south, the Afghan interior ministry says 12 militants were killed in battles in Helmand province on Friday.

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