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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 October, 2004, 17:19 GMT 18:19 UK
Afghan complaint deadline expires
Election workers sort ballot papers in Kabul
Preliminary results are not expected for a few days
The UN deadline for written complaints of irregularities in Afghanistan's presidential election has expired.

A three-member panel will now scrutinise the objections, which follow a row on voting day over alleged fraud.

Meanwhile ballot boxes are piling up in centres around the country for the count, set for Wednesday or Thursday.

In the north-east, a UN helicopter sent to collect votes has crash-landed in mountains, leaving the eight crew and officials on board stranded but unhurt.

All set for the count

The United Nations inquiry was set up after a boycott call on election day from most candidates opposing the favourite, Hamid Karzai, a Pashtun who has led the US-backed administration in Kabul since the overthrow of the Taleban three years ago.

QUICK GUIDE

Indelible ink to prevent multiple voting had failed to work in many areas, and voting was briefly suspended in certain polling stations although monitors later called the vote a success.

Since Saturday several main candidates have vowed to accept the results of the election and abide by the inquiry findings.

Principle among them is Yunus Qanuni, regarded as Mr Karzai's closest challenger.

He has promised to "respect the will of millions of Afghans" and work for unity.

There is also still a degree of confusion over the make-up of the UN inquiry team. The names of two of its members were given on Monday. A third has still to be announced.

There are counting papers piling up and they are ready to be counted - we are just waiting for the green light
David Avery
Election commission operations chief

The panel will look into all allegations of irregularities, not just problems with the ink.

At some polling stations agents for certain candidates were said to be telling people who to vote for.

Vote organisers say ballots from areas where there are complaints will be isolated for checking by the UN panel while the rest of the vote is counted.

"There are counting papers piling up and they are ready to be counted. We are just waiting for the green light," David Avery, the election commission's chief of operations, told the AFP news agency.

He said he expected counting to begin in the next day or two. Full results are not expected for two to three weeks.

Crash-landing

The helicopter crash in the Wakhan corridor area of Badakshan province near the borders with China, Tajikistan and Pakistan is the latest problem to hit the collection and counting of votes.

The Russian-made Mi-8 suffered engine failure, Mr Avery told the Associated Press.

The helicopter had not yet picked up any ballot boxes when it crash-landed in a snow-field.

The US military is air-dropping warm clothes and food to help the crew and officials survive freezing temperatures overnight and will attempt to rescue them on Wednesday.

Mr Avery conceded the incident would slow the recovery of ballots from the area.

More than 10 million people were registered to vote in Afghanistan's first mass democratic poll, many of them refugees living in Pakistan and Iran.

BBC correspondents reported huge enthusiasm for the vote across Afghanistan.

Threats by the Taleban to disrupt the election failed to materialise.

Afghanistan's hard-line former rulers said on Tuesday they had refrained from attacks to avoid Muslim bloodshed.


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