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Karzai: Afghan Elections Could Be Pushed Back To August

Afghan leader Hamid Karzai and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell Kabul, 17 March 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai today said national elections may be delayed until August, even if UN efforts to register voters in troubled provinces succeeds.

Karzai made the statement in Kabul after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. Karzai said the Afghan government wants to hold the elections in June, July, or August.

Security and logistical problems throughout the country have prevented many Afghans from registering for the elections, originally scheduled for June.

Karzai also said he and Powell have agreed to continue cooperation on antiterrorism efforts in Afghanistan, where U.S.-led forces are hunting Taliban and Al-Qaeda members.

Powell described security efforts in the region. "U.S. forces have been focused on the region down along the Pakistan border [with Afghanistan] and we been doing everything we can to encourage Pakistani leaders, especially President [Pervez] Musharraf, of course, to be more active along the border areas and the tribal areas," Powell said.

Powell also said the United States will pledge an additional $1 billion dollars in reconstruction aid for Afghanistan at a donors conference in Berlin later this month. He said the total U.S. contribution to Afghanistan for the year will be $2.2 billion dollars.

Powell is expected in Islamabad tomorrow for talks with Pakistani leaders.