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US Envoy Denies Using Influence in Afghan Elections - 2004-09-27

The United States ambassador to Afghanistan denies allegations he is meddling in the country's first direct presidential election, to be held on October 9.

U.S. ambassador to Kabul, Zalmay Khalilzad, says that his diplomatic mission is regularly in touch with all the 18 presidential candidates and listens to their ideas and proposals. He adds the United States supports the election process in Afghanistan, not individuals.

Speaking to reporters in Kabul Monday, Ambassador Khalilzad also denied allegations that he has asked some of the candidates to withdraw in favor of the incumbent President Hamid Karzai, who is also running in the next month's landmark presidential election.

"It's not my business, it is not the [U.S] missions business to tell candidates to withdraw," he said. "This is a decision that each candidate has to make for himself or herself. Our role is to support the [election] process so Afghans have the opportunity to elect their leader. Who they elect is their decision."

But some presidential candidates have reportedly complained that the U.S ambassador and his staff are pushing behind the scenes to ensure a convincing victory by President Karzai.

Candidates like 61-year old Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai, who spoke to VOA by telephone, also complained that President Karzai has an unfair campaign advantage in being able to use state resources.

"It is very unfortunate that one of the candidates is using all the public funds in his favor," he said. "The other 17, we are just poor people and struggling on our own."

More than 10 million Afghans have registered to vote on in the presidential election October 9 and also in parliamentary elections to be held in April.