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Conducive environment for Afghan elections still does not exist - Annan

31 July While the peace accord leading to elections in Afghanistan next year is largely on track despite considerable obstacles, a conducive environment still does not exist and the international community must address the threat of insecurity in the country for several years to come, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan's says in his latest report.

Failure to do so could lead to consequences far beyond the borders of the country, which harboured the Al Qaida group blamed for the terrorist attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001, according to the report, an update issued every four months.

In it, Mr. Annan calls for deploying the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which now only polices Kabul, the capital, to other key cities across the country as "both necessary and the best way to fill the security gap" that threatens implementation of the Afghan peace accords reached in Bonn, Germany, in 2001.

The report says the security situation is even showing signs of deterioration in some places - the north in particular. There has been an increase in terrorist activities along the southern and eastern borders and significant intensification of attacks against the assistance community over the past three months.

"Ultimately, security must be provided by Afghan security institutions, but training sufficient numbers of professional security forces, including national police and Afghan National Army will require several years," the report notes. "In the interim, addressing the threat of continuing instability will require international involvement. The consequences of failing to provide for sufficient security for the Bonn process to succeed have implications far beyond Afghanistan."

Holding free and fair elections in the summer of 2004 requires the development of an effective electoral process and a security environment that will allow eligible Afghans to fully participate. "At present such an environment does not really exist," the report says.

It calls for clear and time-specific benchmarks, which are understood and accepted by all to enable the Government, Afghan institutions and the international community to meet the preconditions for staging a credible election. "Persistent defiance by some key governors and local leaders is troubling," it adds in a reference to corruption and insubordination.

"Without security, the accomplishments of the Government of Afghanistan and the significant investments of the international community are at risk," the report declares, calling for disarmament and demobilization of militias, training of professional security forces to safeguard the elections, a new constitution and media reform.

Reform of the Defence Ministry to reflect national and not regional or ethnic interests is an essential starting point not only for disarmament but also for the broader goals of the Bonn process, and eventually all government institutions must be reformed to reflect the national character, it adds.

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