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Afghan President Announces New Election Officials

Under heavy pressure at home and abroad over the manner of his reelection last year, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has named new officials to oversee elections.

Presidential spokesman Waheed Omar said today that Fazel Ahmed Manawi will run the Independent Election Commission.

Manawi replaces former chairman Azizullah Lodin, under whom the commission was widely criticized for overlooking rampant ballot-stuffing and other fraud in August's presidential election.

Karzai also named an Iraqi and a South African to a separate election fraud panel, satisfying international pressure to include foreigners.

The new appointments, which drew praise from the United Nations, come as Afghanistan starts preparations for parliamentary elections in September.

Karzai's standing in the West was hurt by the circumstances around his reelection, when the foreign-led fraud panel threw out nearly one-third of his votes due to ballot stuffing.

Karzai, the country's only leader since a UN-backed agreement following the ouster of the hard-line Taliban in late 2001, countered that there was "vast fraud" but laid the blame on UN and European officials.

compiled from agency reports