Sun, Jan 11, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Afghan president says he will stand in June election


President Hamid Karzai yesterday said that he would be a candidate in Afghanistan's first democratic presidential elections and that he would try to hold them as scheduled in June.

"Yes, I am a candidate for the presidential post in the upcoming elections," Karzai told reporters at a regular briefing in Kabul.

Afghanistan is due to hold presidential elections in June, under the peace accord worked out after the ousting of the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban regime in 2001, but the UN has warned that elections may not be able to take place as scheduled because of the slow rate of voter registration.

So far 274,000 Afghans, of the 10 million eligible, have been enrolled on electoral lists and of these only 59,000 are women.

Previously Karzai has said the polls might be delayed for several months due to logistical reasons.

"We are trying to reach the date we have set for ourselves which is the month of June or July so we should try to do that," Karzai said yesterday when asked when the elections would be held.

The elections are one of the final planks of the Bonn peace accords after Afghanistan's Loya Jirga or grand assembly last Sunday approved the country's first post-Taliban Constitution.

The document enshrines a strong presidential system of government alongside a bicameral parliament and states that men and women have equal rights and duties.

Karzai said he was happy the Loya Jirga was a success but that more work needed to be done to implement the document.

"Of course we have problems but that doesn't mean we should stop, we should build and reform our government institutions, today we have problems which tomorrow we won't have," he said.

Karzai said two attacks in the southern provinces during the week had been attempts to prevent Afghanistan from celebrating its new Constitution.

Some 12 members of the Hazara ethnic minority were shot dead in Helmand province by unknown militants while a bomb blast in the main southern city of Kandahar killed 15 and left scores injured, mainly children.

Karzai also said he welcomed Afghans who had been living abroad into the country, a contentious issue at the Loya Jirga which debated whether those nationals who held dual passports would be able to serve in the government.

"We need every Afghan man and woman wherever they are to come and work in this country so the question of dual citizenship is of no significance to me where the rebuilding of Afghanistan is concerned," he said. "And I am sure the Afghan parliament will feel the same way."

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