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Karzai: Afghans Need New President     07/28 06:17

   KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Afghanistan's outgoing leader Hamid Karzai said 
on Monday that his nation needs a new president and urged for a speedy 
conclusion to the ballot audit that will determine his successor.

   In a speech marking the start of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday that follows 
the fasting month of Ramadan, Karzai said that Afghans "want to have an outcome 
to the election as soon as possible, so that this country can have its 
president soon."

   After fraud was alleged by both presidential contenders, all 8 million 
ballots cast in the second round of the Afghan presidential vote in June are 
being audited under national and international supervision.

   The process is key to insuring a peaceful transfer of power ahead of the 
withdrawal of most foreign troops by the end of the year.

   In his speech, Karzai also expressed sympathy with the suffering of Gaza 
Palestinians in the ongoing Israeli-Hamas war, and said the Afghans "remember 
the people of Palestine in Gaza who get killed brutally, night and day."

   Karzai also reiterated calls on the Taliban to join the country's peace 
process and stop killing other Afghans.

   "I call upon the leaders of the Taliban to stop fighting Afghans," Karzai 
said. "I call on them to live in peace and dignity with their brothers and 
sisters."

   The peace process has been virtually on hold until after the new president 
is chosen. The two candidates --- former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and 
former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai --- are awaiting the results of 
the audit.

   In his own message ahead of the Eid holiday, the reclusive leader of the 
Taliban, Mullah Mohammad Omar, dealt a blow to the peace prospects last Friday, 
when he warned that a bilateral security pact allowing thousands of U.S. troops 
to stay in Afghanistan beyond the end of this year will mean more fighting.


(KA)


 
 
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