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UN begins distributing Afghan ballots

world Updated: Oct 22, 2009 17:17 IST

The United Nations began delivering ballots and voting kits across Afghanistan on Thursday, as full-blown preparations for the November 7 runoff in the insurgency-plagued nation's presidential election got underway.

International election monitors called on authorities to avert the widespread fraud that marred the first round of voting in August. Scores of election staff accused of misconduct have been axed and new personnel need to be hired.

President Hamid Karzai will face former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah in the run-off. Abdullah announced yesterday he was ready to take part, one day after Karzai bowed to intense US pressure and acknowledged he fell short of the 50 per cent threshold needed for victory in the August 20 election.

UN-backed auditors threw out nearly a third of Karzai's votes because of fraud.

In Washington, US officials said a power-sharing arrangement between Karzai and Abdullah to avoid a runoff was still possible although it would be up to the Afghans.

Organising the ballot with little more than two weeks to spare poses a huge challenge and comes in the face of a growing Taliban insurgency and ahead of mountainous Afghanistan's winter snows, which begin in much of the country around the middle of November.