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Afghan election planners get late start

As Karzai begins to disarm militias, voters must be registered and a constitution ratified - all by next June.

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Moves are afoot, albeit behind schedule, to ready Afghanistan for something it hasn't witnessed since the 1960s - a modern, democratic election.

Census teams are fanning out across forbidding terrain to count civilians, and the Afghan government has set up headquarters in Kabul for the "New Beginnings Program" to coordinate the disarmament of an estimated 100,000 fighters.

But both steps got off to a late start, adding to concerns within the international community that law and order - as well as logistical - challenges will jeopardize the elections scheduled for June of next year.

"We are faced with increasing security problems, [and] the government lacks funds and resources for holding elections," says a senior government official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "It is better to delay it for a few months, rather than holding elections which may result into further disintegration of the law and order situation."

Afghan government sources say that Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah earlier this month impressed upon his visiting British counterpart, Jack Straw, the obstacles to holding elections on the current schedule. Speaking on CNN's Late Edition Sunday, Mr. Abdullah said the government is committed to holding elections on time. "If we are a month or so behind the schedule, that should be dealt with at that time," he said.

President Hamid Karzai's government, installed after the US-led forces ousted the Islamist Taliban regime, was granted international legitimacy by the 2001 Bonn Agreement. Under this accord, Afghanistan must adopt a constitution and establish a democratically elected government by June, 2004 with the assistance of United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).


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