Afghan President Hamid Karzai says elections scheduled for September will go ahead as planned, despite logistical difficulties of registering voters and making other preparations.
Speaking on the NBC television program Meet the Press, President Karzai said he expects the September elections to go forward, as scheduled.
"I feel confident, because the Afghan people want it very much," he said. "We are under pressure from the Afghan people to expedite the process of registration, to reach the villages. And the Afghan people want to elect their government."
The Afghan leader said more than 3.5 million people have registered to vote. He added that the registration process is expected to go on for another two months.
Mr. Karzai acknowledged that his government has been talking to different factions of Afghan society in the run-up to September's polling. But he denied accusations reported in international media that he has been making secret deals with warlords to secure his government's position.
"When you prepare for elections, people talk to each other," said Mr. Karzai. "Do you want us to fight each other? We are talking to each other. And in that talking, the country is preparing itself for future elections peacefully."
Mr. Karzai said there are Afghans outside of the government who have their own private militias, but he emphasized that his government is in charge of the country. He added, though, that his administration is weak because of a shortage of human resources, and because the country is still recovering from 30 years of war.
In a separate interview on the same program, Secretary of State Colin Powell said he thinks President Karzai has done a tremendous job rebuilding the country. Afghanistan's former ruling Taleban regime collapsed shortly after U.S.-led troops launched military action against them in October 2001.
"When you think of where we were right after the defeat of the Taleban, where there wasn't a single phone working," he said. "There is now a government that is functioning. It is slowly, but surely, extending its reach out beyond the capital. It is being challenged still by Taleban remnants and some al-Qaida presence, and they also will have to be defeated. But we are going to stick with the Afghan government, while they go about doing this."
President Karzai meets in Washington this week with President Bush, Secretary Powell and members of both houses of Congress.