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EU To Observe Afghan Poll If Security Allows

Afghans have begun registering for the August vote.
BRUSSELS (Reuters) -- The European Union has said it would consider sending observers to Afghanistan's presidential election in August, provided conditions are safe.

Foreign ministers from the 27-nation bloc, under pressure from the United States to shoulder more of the military burden in Afghanistan, said the situation required "renewed international engagement" and the EU would look "urgently" at how to enhance its role.

The ministers said the bloc would provide substantial financial assistance for the election expected on August 20, "and, subject to security and other conditions being met, deploy an electoral observation mission".

Militant violence has risen to its worst level since U.S.-led intervention in Afghanistan overthrew the Taliban in late 2001. More than 70,000 foreign troops are now deployed there and thousands more are to be sent to protect the polls.

The EU statement referred to an EU police-training mission, which remains well under-strength despite a decision last year to double its size. It said the mission was being "implemented," but gave no details.

Washington is due to issue an Afghan strategy review this month stressing the need for a regional approach. It has called on EU countries unwilling or unable to provide more troops to do more in areas such as police training and development.