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Problem Reported With Ink In Afghan Election

<graphic/Kabul, 9 October 2004 (RFE/RL)-- Afghanistan's first-ever direct presidential election today is experiencing problems with the ink used to prevent voters from casting more than one ballot.

An RFE/RL correspondent in Kabul reports that the ink used at some polling stations in the capital can be easily wiped off of fingers -- raising the possibility that voters could cast more than one ballot.

Faruq Wardak, chief of the secretariat of the UN-Afghan Joint Election Management Body, told RFE/RL that voting is being temporarily suspended at polling stations where improper ink was
being used.

"The center that I visited, in the beginning when I arrived, so many people complained that the indelible ink is very easily washed away," Wardak said. "When I went there, I found that the wrong marker was used. The marker that was supposed to be used to for marking the ballot paper, that was used to ink the finger. In some polling stations, we found that indelible ink marker does not exist at all. I am not ruling out at this stage, if this is very massive, there could be an act of sabotage just to defame the process."

Voting has been temporarily halted at at least three polling stations in the north and east of Kabul where the problem has been reported.

Meanwhile, Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman General Zaher Azimi told RFE/RL that suspected Taliban fighters with machine guns attacked a security checkpoint outside a southern Kabul polling station shortly after polls opened early today. Three soldiers from the Afghan National Army were injured and one suspected Taliban fighter was arrested.

[For more on the Afghan elections, see RFE/RL and Radio Free Afghanistan's dedicated "Afghanistan Votes 2004-05" webpage.]