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Afghanistan Determined to Hold May Parliamentary Elections

VOA News 29 December 2009

Afghanistan says it is determined to hold parliamentary elections in May, despite Western concerns that the Kabul government has not corrected the fraud that marred the August presidential vote.

A spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Waheed Omar, said Tuesday the government is willing to help pay for the election to ensure it is held on time, according to rules set out in the constitution.

The international community spent more than $220 million on Afghanistan's disputed presidential election, in which more than a million votes were thrown out because of fraud.

A U.S. congressional delegation raised concerns about election fraud with Mr. Karzai in Kabul on Tuesday.

A spokesman, chief of staff Jack Pratt, for one of the members, Steve Israel of New York, said the eight congressmen told President Karzai it is better to take the time to do an election right, than to do an election wrong, on time.

U.S. news reports are quoting U.S. and European officials who say Western nations may not pay for another election without significant electoral reforms. President Karzai pledged to tackle government corruption following his re-election in August.

In Afghanistan Tuesday, Afghan and NATO officials investigated reports that 10 civilians were killed in a military operation in eastern Kunar province, in Narang district, on Sunday.

NATO officials say nine insurgents were killed, but local officials including the Kunar provincial governor, Sayed Fazlullah Wahedi, say most of the victims were young students.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan released figures Tuesday showing civilian deaths in Afghanistan rose more than 10 percent in the first 10 months of this year compared to the same period in 2008.

In a separate development, NATO and Afghan officials says a U.S. soldier was killed Tuesday when an Afghan soldier opened fire on troops in the Bala Murghab district of western Badghis province.

Two Italian soldiers were wounded during the shooting. NATO says troops returned fire and wounded the Afghan soldier. It is investigating the incident.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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