Wed, Oct 07, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Ex-UN official stands by complaint over failure to aggressively probe Afghan poll

AP , WASHINGTON

An American ousted as the No. 2 official at the UN mission in Afghanistan said on Monday he had no second thoughts about assertions that the organization failed to aggressively probe vote fraud charges in the August presidential election.

“The flaw that took place in Afghanistan was preventable,” the dismissed diplomat, Peter Galbraith, said on Monday on ABC television’s Good Morning America.

Galbraith said the UN “did not exercise its responsibility.”

In dismissing Galbraith, the deputy envoy of the UN mission there, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon did not specify the nature of their differences.

Galbraith said the argument was over how the UN should have handled the delicate situation.

Preliminary results from the Aug. 20 election show that Afghan President Hamid Karzai won a majority, with former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah in second place. But proclamation of a winner has been delayed pending a partial recount by the UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission.

UN spokeswoman Michele Montas was asked at UN headquarters in New York how damaging Galbraith’s allegations are to the status of the UN as a neutral observer — and whether Ban was considering replacing the top UN envoy in Afghanistan, Kai Eide, as a result of the very public dispute.

“At this point we are certainly concerned about those allegations, and we’re trying to do as much as we can to specify what the UN role exactly was, and what the UN role still is,” Montas told reporters.

“Are we worried? I think we can just reaffirm our faith in those electoral bodies which were set up and which are now examining the fraud issue and the allegations of fraud,” she said.

“It would be irresponsible for the UN to pronounce itself on evidence and cases of alleged fraud before the appropriate Afghan bodies do so,” Montas said.

As for replacing Eide, Montas said: “The secretary-general has total confidence in Mr Eide and I want to reaffirm this today.”

Interviewed following the deadliest attack on US troops in a year, Galbraith said he did not think it was the right time to bring on an Iraq-like surge in the war-torn country.

“It makes no sense to ramp up,” he said. “On the other hand, we cannot afford to pull out.”

The US administration is weighing whether to send thousands of additional US forces to Afghanistan.

Galbraith also said that unless US and coalition troops could secure significant population centers in Afghanistan, “we’re going to be there as an occupying force for a long time ... and that doesn’t make any sense.”

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