NATO welcomes rejection of Karzai’s call for early vote (Lead)

March 4th, 2009 - 10:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Brussels, March 4 (DPA) NATO Wednesday welcomed the rejection by the Afghan Independent Election Committee of calls for early elections, saying the scheduled Aug 20 date would give the alliance enough time to provide the necessary security during the vote.
While it is a “100 percent Afghan decision”, NATO and its secretary general “welcome this decision by the Independent Election Committee”, said NATO spokesman James Appathurai.

The spokesman said the decision not to bring the vote forward would give the alliance “time to prepare properly and to bring in the forces and capabilities necessary to provide the maximum possible support for the electoral process”.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai last week ordered the commission to bring forward the presidential and provincial vote to April so that he could comply with the country’s constitution.

Under the constitution, Karzai’s term expires May 22, and elections must be held 30 to 60 days before that date.

But the move sparked an outcry from politicians in Kabul and irritation at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels.

NATO commanders have called on allies to deploy four additional battalions to provide security during the electoral process. Two of these would be positioned in Afghanistan’s restive southern provinces and one each in the north and west of the country.

Senior US officials at NATO said Tuesday that security considerations should trump any constitutional difficulties Karzai may be facing.

A staging of elections in April would have forced the US to speed up its planned deployment of 17,000 additional soldiers. That deployment is expected to be completed in July.

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