Hailing Afghans patience civic maturity Annan says poll probe will bring gains

Hailing Afghans patience civic maturity Annan says poll probe will bring gains

In a message to the Afghan people, read out on local television and radio by his Special Representative, Jean Arnault, Mr. Annan said they had shown a welcome determination “to take charge of the affairs of their country.”Apart from the millions of Afghans who voted in their homeland, about 850,000 refugees living in neighbouring Pakistan and Iran also voted – the largest out-of-country election ever, the Secretary-General said.”Your impressive participation against the backdrop of threats of violence by extremists; your long walks to go to the polling stations, sometimes in bad weather; your enthusiasm in casting your ballot for the first time in your life, are a heart-warming demonstration that, nearly three years after the signing of the Bonn Agreement, democracy is firmly taking root in Afghanistan,” he said. The Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB), the UN-Afghan body charged with overseeing the country’s electoral process, has set up an independent probe to investigate reports of polling irregularities and difficulties on Saturday.Mr. Annan told Afghans that the alleged irregularities “will be fully clarified” by the inquiry and added it “will help make electoral procedures more robust and reliable” for the local and parliamentary polls next year.The Secretary-General praised Afghanistan’s security forces for helping to pre-empt or repel attacks by extremist groups trying to derail the election process, and the supportive role played by international security forces. He also thanked the 120,000 people who served as polling staff on Saturday.Meanwhile, engine problems forced a UN helicopter to make an emergency landing today near the village of Patukh in Badakhshan province, close to the border between Afghanistan and China.The three crew members and five passengers on the helicopter are reportedly uninjured, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters, but cannot be rescued tonight because of the inhospitable terrain and bad weather conditions in the area.Warm clothes, food and shelter materials have been dropped by air to the eight crew and passengers for use until rescuers arrive as scheduled tomorrow.

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