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Afghan elections 'encouraging': NATO chief Rasmussen

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Thursday that the way Afghanistan's presidential and provincial elections have been conducted was "encouraging."

world Updated: Aug 20, 2009 18:26 IST

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Thursday that the way Afghanistan's presidential and provincial elections have been conducted was "encouraging."

"The first reports have been encouraging. More polling stations have been open than we expected," the former Danish premier told reporters on a visit to the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik.

Rasmussen said early reports on election turnout in Afghanistan were "a clear demonstration that the Afghan people want democracy, they want freedom and reject terrorism."

But in a nod to reports of vote-buying and corruption, he warned: "Hopefully we can conclude the elections have been credible and reflect the will of the Afghan people."

Rasmussen was in Iceland to attend a meeting of Baltic and Nordic foreign ministers, who were set to discuss a number of foreign and regional policy issues during the two-day event.

Afghans went to the polls earlier on Thursday to elect a president for the second time in history.

Seventeen million of them registered to vote and they will also elect 420 councillors in 34 provinces across the largely rural and impoverished country.

Pre-election violence stoked fears about whether it would prove safe to vote despite thousands of US and NATO troops stepping up anti-insurgency assaults.

Voting centres closed officially at 4:00 pm (1130 GMT), guarded by a huge deployment of 300,000 Afghan and foreign forces. But the election commission said people still in queues would be allowed to cast ballots