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Afghanistan: Elections Wrap Up, Security Concern

Afghanistan: As Elections Wrap Up Political Transition, Security Still Top Concern

New York, Aug 23 2005 2:00PM

While troubling developments on the security front were a reminder of the hurdles that Afghans faced in rebuilding their country, a senior United Nations official today said he was confident that by year’s end a representative new National Assembly would be established, and with it Afghanistan’s political transition would be successfully completed.

“Security is paramount, and bringing extremist violence and other forms of insecurity under control will remain at the top of the agenda for the government, and for millions of Afghans for whom the most basic dividend of peace -- security -- remains a distant goal even as the Bonn process draws to a close,” Jean Arnault, head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) told the Security Council today.

With a little over three weeks left before historic parliamentary and provincial elections that will herald the end of the so-called Bonn process – which formally set Afghanistan on the road stability in 2001 – Mr. Arnault briefed the Council on the preparations for the ballot.

Highlighting the country’s voter registration campaign, ballot preparation and candidate vetting procedures, he said that overall, the democratic approach was generating new popular expectations vis-à-vis the government and elected officials, and more demanding criteria by which they would be judged. In doing so, it was also shaping, to a large extent, the contents of the post-Bonn agenda.

Some 40 million ballots were ready for distribution, he said, adding that contingency plans were in place to address any shortages at the polling stations. Some 30,000 Afghan national police would be required to secure the “first ring” around the polling sites and act as a quick reaction force. International military forces were on the ground and would be deployed as a back up. He warned that nearly $30 million in international funding was still needed for electoral costs, including ballot printing and transportation.

Mr. Arnault noted that Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s recent report on the situation in Afghanistan addressed in detail concerns regarding deteriorating security in June and July. Attacks had recently resumed with increased intensity in the south, east and southeast, with ambushes and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) remaining the tactics of choice of the extremists, with deadly effect.

The number of attacks against UN staff had decreased compared to last year, and those against the candidates and electoral workers had been mostly indirect. However, Mr. Arnault said it was too soon to rule out attempts at causing major disruptions of the elections. In addition, increased insecurity in the provinces along the eastern border was a cause of concern for the elections there.

The Government had approached UNAMA and other international partners with the proposal that a high-level conference on a post-Bonn compact be held in the second half of January. In the meantime, he was particularly keen to see closer links between Afghanistan and its neighbours in all fields.

The proposed conference would play an important role in that regard. Immediately after the elections, Mr. Annan was expected to initiate consultations with President Karzai and the Afghan Government, as well as other concerned stakeholders, with a view to defining the role of the UN in the post-Bonn period, he added.

ENDS

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