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Afghan election date must be set soon if poll is to take place in September - UN

1 July 2004 The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said today a specific date for elections would have to be set very soon if they are to take place in September as scheduled.

"Of course if the debate goes on it will definitely have an impact on the elections date, but if it is a matter of days or so I don't believe this should be seen as a major drama," UNAMA spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva told a news briefing in the Afghan capital, Kabul, when asked about suggestions that the vote be postponed for a second time in view of recent terrorist attacks.

The Mission is co-responsible for organizing the poll, which was originally slated for June, to set up a freely elected government following the ouster of the Taliban regime which had harboured the Al-Qaida movement blamed for the 11 September 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States.

Mr. de Almeida e Silva said three important elements had to be kept in mind as the debate continued: the integrity of the electoral operation; security for voters and candidates and the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process.

So far nearly 5.5 million people, more than half the estimated total electorate, have registered, 2 million of them women whose rights were severely restricted by the Taliban.

"I don't know how many Afghans will register by the time voter registration is concluded," Mr. de Almeida e Silva said when asked whether terrorist attacks were scaring voters away. "What I know is our commitment - the commitment of the JEMB (Joint Electoral Management Body) Secretariat, their partners and the United Nations to make available as many opportunities for voter registration for as long as possible for as many Afghans that wish to register.

"The registration numbers that we are seeing quite frankly are very impressive despite the difficulties. The fact is that Afghans, both old and young, men and women, are walking long distances even after having heard news of either threats or explosions, and continue to register in very large numbers," he added. "You said that they are afraid. I don't know if they are afraid because what I can see are the numbers, which are very high."

He also said there was a lag in donations for the $102 million needed for the poll, $78 million of it by early July. So far $18 million has been received and pledges total $70 million, $40 million of it in firm commitments. "So we know the money is coming - the question is the speed at which it will come," he added. "Another question is bridging the gap between pledges and the total budget. That amounts to $30 million to $31 million."



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