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Gates Says Afghan Runoff Won't Solve Corruption Problems


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The U.S. defense secretary is welcoming news that the Afghan presidential runoff election has been scheduled for November 7, but warns that government corruption is a larger problem that the original fraud-riddled vote.

Robert Gates said during a visit to Japan that there is a "need to be realistic" that tackling issues of corruption and governance in Afghanistan are an ongoing "evolutionary effort."

His comments came a day after Afghan President Hamid Karzai agreed to settle the disputed election with a second-round vote between him and his leading challenger, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah.

Afghan election workers are now preparing for the logistical difficulties of holding another nationwide vote in 18 days, before winter weather seals off remote areas.

The U.N. Secretary-General said Tuesday that carrying out the vote in a credible manner is going to be "a huge challenge."

Tuesday's announcement of the runoff by the election commission capped two months of political deadlock that drew strong concern from U.S., European and United Nations officials.

News accounts of recent deliberations among foreign officials and President Karzai describe intense international pressure to convince the reluctant Afghan leader to accept the throwing-out nearly one-third of his votes because they were tainted by fraud.

U.S. Senator John Kerry is described as having played a key role during several days of meetings with Mr. Karzai since last week.

In an interview with The New York Times newspaper, Mr. Kerry said he told the Afghan leader about his experiences during his 2004 presidential election loss to former U.S. President George W. Bush, when there were questions about some ballots that helped decide the outcome. Mr. Kerry said he told Mr. Karzai "sometimes there are tough things."

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