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Afghanistan elections in April or May bring pressing deadlines, UN says

10 January 2005 With Afghanistan facing parliamentary elections this spring, the United Nations envoy for Afghanistan today called on the international community to prepare to pay between $120 million and $130 million towards the cost, depending on the final dates chosen by the yet-to-be appointed Independent Electoral Commission.

If the Government decided to hold elections for the nearly 3 million refugees in Iran and Pakistan, at least another $30 million would be needed, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, Jean Arnault, told the Security Council.

Having had the presidential election of last October as a rehearsal for more complex operations, parliamentary and local elections were scheduled to be held in Saur 1383, or between next 21 April and 21 May, and a number of related deadlines were looming, he said in an open briefing.

With UN assistance, President Hamid Karzai was consulting community leaders and the heads of 50 new political parties on the appointments he would make to the Independent Electoral Commission, whose most urgent decision would be assigning people to electoral districts in the next couple of weeks to meet a deadline of at least 120 days before election day, he said.

The Government and Independent Electoral Commission members also would have to decide very soon on revising the electoral law, preparing voter lists, demarcating constituencies, as well as determining the participation of refugees and nomads, Mr. Arnault said.

Close to 400 district elections needed to be secured as the Afghan National Army increased to 32 battalions by April, from 28 now, and the re-trained National Police to over 37,000 by April from 32,000 now, he said.

The abduction and killing last month of a sub-contracted UN Office of Project Services (UNOPS) employee was a warning "of the possibility that the targeting of international personnel could occur again" and become easier when the winter ended, Mr. Arnault said.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan also needed funds to run its disarmament, demobilization and re-integration (DDR) programme adequately in circumstances where the demobilization of regular forces was going well, but "miscellaneous irregular forces were not included in the programme and continue to exist throughout the country."

"Some - although not all - are among the main sources of insecurity and human rights violations in certain part of the country and their activities are frequently linked to drug cultivation and trade," he said.

"It is estimated that in 2004 356,000 families were involved in opium poppy production, an increase of 35 per cent from 2003," Mr. Arnault said, adding that the opium economy was now about 60 per cent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).

Last month the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said more than 6,700 soldiers and officers of the 7th and 8th Corps in Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan had been disarmed and their units decommissioned. Nearly 29,000 military personnel countrywide, or about 60 per cent of the total expected to lay down their weapons, had then done so.

The Council President for January, Argentine Permanent Representative Csar Mayoral, told journalists after the meeting that the body supported UNAMA's fulfilment of relevant Council resolutions and looked forward to the spring 2005 elections.

"The Security Council calls upon the international community to support efforts currently underway on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of Afghan militias and on combating the production and trafficking of narcotics," he added.

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