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Asia-pacific

Britain joins call for Karzai not to move up Afghan election date

Latest update : 2009-03-03

Britain supported the United Nations and others allies in pressing the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, to hold elections in August, as originally decided, for security and "practical" reasons. Karzai caused a stir by announcing an April date.

AFP - Britain pressed Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday not to go ahead with early elections in April, saying the original timetable of August was better for security reasons.
  
Karzai has ordered the presidential election to be held on April 20 but the United Nations, United States and other Afghan allies support the Independent Election Commission's date of August 20.
  
British Development Secretary Douglas Alexander, who held talks with Karzai here Tuesday, said London also preferred August.
  
"The British government's position on elections is clear: it is vital that they are prepared properly in order to ensure their credibility," he said in a statement released in Kabul.
  
"Ultimately it is for the IEC to decide on the date of elections but, as the UK and others have already made clear, we support an August date for practical and logistical reasons," he said.
  
Karzai caused a stir at the weekend when he issued a decree ordering the election be held in line with the constitution which says the polls must be at least 30 days before the official end of the presidential term on May 21.
  
The IEC had in January delayed the vote until August, saying it needed the time to prepare and also wanted NATO military reinforcements on the ground to help secure the polls from Taliban attack.
  
The commission has said it will announce a response to Karzai's decree on Thursday.
  
Alexander, who met Karzai in the morning and was also due to visit British troops in the southern province of Helmand, called on Afghan leaders to reach an early consensus "that preserves stability and security".
  
He also announced an extra 50 million pounds (70.6 billion dollars) in aid to Afghanistan, taking Britain's commitment to the war-torn country to 510 million pounds over four years.
  
Most of the new pledge would go toward building a key road and a hydropower plant in the southern province of Helmand, where British troops are fighting Taliban insurgents, he said.
  
Some would also go on counter-narcotics measures, with Helmand the biggest producer of Afghanistan's illegal opium crop.
  
Britain has about 8,300 soldiers stationed in Afghanistan, the second largest contribution to a NATO-led military force after that of the United States.

Date created : 2009-03-03

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