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UN chief congratulates Afghans on polls

UN chief Ban Ki-moon congratulated the Afghan people for voting in Thursday's elections despite a challenging security environment.

world Updated: Aug 20, 2009 22:22 IST

UN chief Ban Ki-moon congratulated the Afghan people for voting in Thursday's elections despite a challenging security environment.

"The Secretary General would like to congratulate the women and men of Afghanistan on today's presidential and provincial Council elections," his press office said in a statement.

"By exercising their constitutional right to vote, the Afghan people have demonstrated again their desire for stability and development in their country."

The UN boss praised insurgency-wracked Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission as well as international stakeholders for organizing the elections "in an extremely challenging environment."

Insurgents stormed the small northern town of Baghlan, sparking clashes that killed up to 22 militants according to police, and officials said scattered unrest elsewhere had left a total of 26 civilians and security personnel dead.

Around 300,000 security forces personnel, a third of them NATO and US-led troops, were deployed to protect polling after the Taliban threatened attacks.

Afghan election officials said they were hoping for 50 per cent turnout, but the UN special envoy to Afghanistan Kai Eide warned it would be "premature" to give any indication.

Ban also urged all candidates, their agents and supporters to continue cooperating with all Afghan electoral institutions during the vote counting period and the certification of results.