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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 August, 2004, 14:36 GMT 15:36 UK
Afghan voter registration hailed
Afghan men in Kabul wait to register to vote
The October poll is seen as a key step in efforts to build democracy
About 90% of the electorate has now registered to vote in Afghanistan's first presidential election in October, the United Nations has announced.

"Participation is amazing," UN spokesman David Singh said in Kabul.

The UN says 8.7 million of the estimated 9.8 million eligible voters have signed up - 41% of them women.

Mr Singh admitted security was still a problem but said the high registration figures showed Afghans' determination to vote despite the threat of violence.

Taleban threats

Afghanistan has seen mounting violence ahead of the October poll - which was twice postponed because of security concerns.

Officials, aid workers and civilians have been attacked by suspected Taleban and local militiamen trying to influence the outcome of the vote.

Afghan women waiting to register in Kabul

The Taleban, who were ousted from power in 2001, have vowed to disrupt the electoral process.

In their heartland, in the south and south-west, registration has been low.

Response has been strongest in the north, west and centre of the country where regional leaders have encouraged their supporters to sign up.

Correspondents say ethnic rivalry has also spurred communities to ensure they are fully represented, including through their women.

Rough calculations

This has led to some anomalies; for example, in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif where the number registered exceeded the projected number of people eligible to vote, suggesting either fraud or inaccurate estimates of voter strength.

The UN admits its calculations of the overall electorate may be out by as much as a million people but officials say a dab of indelible ink on each voter's figure will limit fraud on polling day.

The October vote is being seen as a landmark in efforts to build democracy in Afghanistan after years of war.

Interim President Hamid Karzai is widely expected to defeat 22 other candidate to secure a five-year term.

Parliamentary elections have been postponed until next year for security reasons.

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