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UN says voter registration in Afghanistan insufficient to allow for June elections

8 January Insecurity in Afghanistan has impeded voter registration efforts, putting in jeopardy an election planned for June, a United Nations spokesman said today.

"It is close to impossible to meet the June date with the current security conditions that do not permit registration teams to go throughout the country," Manoel de Almeida e Silva said in Kabul.

According to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), more than 270,000 Afghans have registered to vote so far in the country's eight main cities - more than 215,000 men and just under 60,000 women.

But this falls far short of what would be needed to hold elections in the coming months. In a recent report to the Security Council, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan points out that the number of registration centres currently open is "too low" to meet the target.

He further warns that the situation could cause rifts in the war-ravaged country. "Direct access to each of up to 10 million eligible voters must be available, and lack of access due to insecurity will result in the disenfranchisement of voters," he notes." Given that inaccessible areas are concentrated in the south, this disenfranchisement would have most damaging ethnic undertones."

The Secretary-General urges the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the coalition to expand security assistance beyond Kabul in order to promote stability and foster an environment conducive to a free ballot process.

Under the UN-brokered Bonn Agreement, which in late 2001 ushered in a new era of political transition for Afghanistan, the parties agreed that free and fair elections should be held no later than two years from the date of the convening of the country's Emergency Loya Jirga, or grand council. That session was held in June 2002.

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