Official: Afghan Vote Delayed

Afghan police officers Abdul Karim, left, and Abdul Mubeen chat near a poster that promotes Afghan participation in the country's first free election in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Monday, June 7, 2004.
Historic Afghan elections scheduled for September will be delayed because of wrangling among officials and political parties, a senior government official told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Farooq Wardak, a senior member of the country's election management body, said the group would not be able to reach a decision by Friday, the deadline for setting a vote in September.

Under Afghan law, polling day must be set at least 90 days in advance. That makes Friday the last chance to announce a Sept. 30 election.

"Much more consultation is required," Wardak said as he hurried to a meeting with the top U.N. official in Afghanistan, Jean Arnault. "I'm hopeful that next week we'll have a decision."

Taliban-led rebels have vowed to sabotage the polls but the Afghan government and the U.S. military have been adamant they can go ahead as planned in September despite increasing security concerns.

President Bush last month mentioned the upcoming elections twice in speeches proclaiming the success of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. In Spokane, Wash., on June 17, he said the Taliban government "doesn't exist anymore."

"As a matter of fact, there's a — they're going to have elections in Afghanistan in September," Mr. Bush said. "They've got a modern constitution. They'll have women serving in their parliament."

Last week, suspected Taliban gunmen killed at least 10 men in southern Afghanistan after finding that they had registered for national elections.

Rozi Khan, the Uruzgan police chief, told The Associated Press that assailants stopped the van on a road about 20 miles from the provincial capital, Tirin Kot.

The gunmen opened fire after they searched the documents of the 12 men inside and found that they had registered to vote. Two men escaped and alerted police, who found the 10 bodies but have made no arrests.

The attack, which occurred Friday on a road in southern Uruzgan province, was the deadliest yet in a wave of violence aimed at sabotaging the nation's first free vote.

On Saturday, a bomb ripped through a bus carrying female election workers in the eastern city of Jalalabad, killing two of them and wounding 13 others. A spokesman for the Taliban claimed responsibility.

The security threat has delayed registration in remote areas, and so far, only about half of eligible voters have signed up nationwide.