Afghan envoy says election run-off likely



WASHINGTON, Shaun Tandon - A senior aide to Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Thursday for the first time that he expected a second round in disputed elections and pushed for the run-off to be held quickly.
Said Tayeb Jawad, Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States, said he has not personally spoken to election authorities who are expected to make an announcement within days.



Afghan envoy says election run-off likely
But Jawad, who has served as Karzai's chief of staff and press secretary, became the first member of the president's circle to speak publicly of plans for a new vote after Western-led allegations of major irregularities.
"A run-off is a likely scenario," Jawad said at the US Institute of Peace.
"If that's what it is, everyone should work very hard to make that happen."
Jawad said the next round of presidential elections should be held quickly, charging that a delay would create headaches for other nations -- including the United States, as it mulls sending more troops to fight Taliban insurgents.
"The constitution requires a run-off be done within two weeks but that's impossible. So four weeks will push it into early November and that's the latest that it will happen because after that it will be extremely cold, especially in northern Afghanistan," Jawad said.
"But if it's delayed to spring, this is clearly a recipe for disaster -- this creates a lot of confusion, a lot of indecisiveness and also further complicated relations" with the outside world, he added.
Karzai has passionately rejected charges of widespread irregularities, testing the patience of Western nations that were his key backers after the US-led military operation in 2001 that toppled the Taliban regime.
European Union observers said a quarter of all votes, or 1.5 billion ballots, were suspect.
Afghan election authorities are reviewing disputed ballots. A senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, expected a final announcement on Sunday or Monday.
Karzai's chief rival, urbane former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, said earlier he hoped investigations into ballot-stuffing allegations would result in a run-off.
"My preference is to go to a second round," he said in Kabul.
Abdullah said a run-off was likely but that if one were not called, "those who are behind the fraud and tolerate fraud will be responsible for the consequences."
Karzai, speaking earlier this week to the US television network ABC, branded charges that as much of 30 percent of the vote was tainted as "totally fabricated" and "politically instigated."
Jawad also insisted the vote was widely free and fair, and accused unnamed players of casting down on the election from the moment voters went to the polls.
"If fraud delegitimizes the process, as of course it does, too much interference by outside or inside sources also delegitimizes the process," he said.
He was unusually open about Karzai's disagreements with President Barack Obama, who has been cooler toward the Afghan leader than his predecessor, George W. Bush.
While describing relations as improved, Jawad said that early in the Obama administration, "there was some oversimplication of the issues" and "even there was this lack of knowledge" about Afghanistan's complex ethnic patchwork.
"But after a while this has changed and everybody realized it's not really as simple as that, just getting rid of a leader of a country you don't like," he said.
Obama has made the fight against Islamic extremism a chief focus. He signed a five-year, 7.5-billion-dollar development package for violence-torn neighbor Pakistan on Thursday as he weighs a decision on whether to send tens of thousands more US troops to Afghanistan.
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Friday, October 16th 2009
Shaun Tandon
           


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