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UN: Preparations for Afghanistan's October Elections Going Well - 2004-08-25

Preparations for Afghanistan's October elections are going well. United Nations officials say about 90 percent of eligible voters have registered to vote, nearly half of them women. But there are worrisome signs that the Taleban is re-emerging, intent on sabotaging the vote.

The U.N. special envoy to Afghanistan, Jean Arnaud, says the campaign to register Afghans for the national election has been a success. He told the Security Council 10.5 million people have signed up to vote in a country of 28 million. Roughly 4.3 million of those registered are women.

"This comprehensive nationwide exercise enables the electoral authorities and the security forces to make accurate preparation for the 9 October election," he said. "It will make it possible to the elected leadership to claim representation of the Afghan nation as a whole."

Mr. Arnaud warned, however, that groups such as the Taleban are re-emerging on Afghanistan's political scene, committed to undermining the electoral process.

Chilean Ambassador Heraldo Munoz, chairman of the Security Council's al-Qaida/Taleban sanctions committee, told reporters he has fresh evidence of Taleban activity.

"Many electoral workers also have been attacked, so there is a situation of insecurity, a product of the re-emergence of the Taleban, and I can say, as president of the al-Qaeda and Taleban sanctions committee, that we just had a small team of our experts in Afghanistan that confirmed that," he added.

Afghanistan's ambassador, Ravan Farhadi, in his presentation to the Council, went a step further. In a clear reference to Pakistan, he suggested that Afghanistan's neighbors are not doing enough to stop the Taleban's activities.

"Attempts of sabotage and destabilization continue by the remnant of al-Qaida and Taleban groups, particularly in the eastern and southern borders of Afghanistan, aimed at challenging the authority and legitimacy of the Afghan government," he stated. "These elements have their network support from some politico-religious circles outside Afghanistan."

The Afghan ambassador's remarks drew an unusually sharp response from Pakistan's ambassador, Munir Akram. He noted that Afghan President Hamid Karzai this week praised Pakistan's efforts to control cross-border infiltration. Rejecting suggestions by U.N. officials that Islamabad should do more to secure the border, he said Pakistan is already paying a price for its efforts against the Taleban.

"Many of our soldiers have died," said Mr. Akram. "The question is what more does the United Nations expect us to do when that call is made on us. What more is expected from Pakistan in this context that we are not doing. That is a question. We feel strongly we are doing everything we can, we are taking lots of political risks, lots of military casualties, and to call on Pakistan to do more, even more, is unfair."

A force of more than 50,000 Afghan and foreign military and police personnel is to provide security for the election, in which President Karzai faces as many as 17 challengers.

Some attempts to disrupt the vote have already begun. Last Thursday, a series of bombs went off at a U.N. voter registration office in western Afghanistan, destroying vehicles and injuring six policemen.