EU Welcomes Afghan Election Date Announcement

Posted October 31st, 2012 at 11:40 am (UTC-5)
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The European Union has welcomed Afghanistan's announcement that presidential elections will be held in April of 2014.

The EU's special representative to Afghanistan, Vygaudas Usackas, said Wednesday the decision to hold elections demonstrates Afghan authorities are fulfilling their duties in accordance with political commitments.

Usackas said the EU is supportive of “inclusive and transparent elections with a legitimate outcome.”

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is serving his second term and is constitutionally barred from running for re-election. Next year's vote is seen as a test of Afghanistan's young democracy, after the 2009 election was marred by allegations of voter fraud.

Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission said the presidential poll, as well as provincial elections, will be held April 5, 2014. IEC head Fazel Ahmad Manawi urged insurgents — including the Taliban and Hezb-e-Islami — to lay down their arms.

The presidential vote will take place as international combat troops complete their withdrawal by the end of 2014.

Elsewhere Wednesday, Afghan officials said three separate roadside bombs in southern Afghanistan killed 17 civilians, including women and children. Two of the blasts took place in Helmand province and one in Kandahar province.

The commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General John Allen, condemned roadside bombs, particularly those that cause casualties among children.

General Allen noted that Mullah Omar recently called on followers to avoid causing civilian deaths — accusing the Taliban leader of being “highly disingenuous.”

And President Karzai's office on Wednesday outlined the assets that have so far been recovered from the reported $900 million that was embezzled from what once was the country's biggest private lender, Kabul Bank.

The president's office said $138 million in cash and $183 million worth of property both in and outside of Afghanistan have been taken over and another $218 million has been “acknowledged as debts by the borrowers, yet to be returned.” During a meeting late Tuesday, President Karzai and senior Afghan officials also heard a progress report that “concluded the remaining amount of $529 million is still disputed.”

Kabul Bank lost close to a billion dollars in funds and nearly collapsed in 2010 due to mismanagement, cronyism and questionable lending. Afghanistan's central bank stepped in and took over Kabul Bank, which was later split into two.

The Afghan government is calling for the United States to extradite the former head of the Afghan central bank, Abdul Qadir Fitrat, who fled to the U.S. last year. Fitrat said he feared for his life after trying to prosecute those who stole millions from Kabul Bank. Afghan officials say the former central bank governor played a role in the Kabul Bank scandal and want him brought back to Afghanistan to face charges.