Page last updated at 21:09 GMT, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 22:09 UK

Brown welcomes second Afghan poll

Brown: Legitimate government 'vital'

Gordon Brown has welcomed the decision to hold a second round of voting in Afghanistan's presidential election.

"It is vital that the new Afghan government has legitimacy in the eyes of its people," he said.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband said it was encouraging that in the face of evidence of electoral fraud, the Afghan authorities had not been pushed around.

The UK says it is willing to send a further 500 troops to Afghanistan but only if key conditions are met.

The run-off comes after a UN-backed panel said it had clear evidence of fraud, which lowered President Karzai's share in August's vote below 50%.

President Karzai and his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, will contest the run-off on 7 November, it was announced on Tuesday.


Mr Brown said: "I have consistently said that the election must be allowed to run its course and that all concerned should respect the process.

Our strategy depends on a strong Afghan government showing the leadership required to gain the trust of the people
No 10 statement

"There is no doubt that there have been flaws and we will need to apply the lessons of this process."

Downing Street said the UK would lend its support to Afghanistan through the process of a second election, helping ensure that all Afghans would have the "opportunity to vote".

In Parliament, Mr Miliband said both the Afghan people and the international community wanted a "credible government".

Although there had been "attempted fraud on a large scale", Mr Miliband said it was encouraging the electoral authorities in Afghanistan had shown they would not be "pushed" around.

Officials have acknowledged the onset of winter will make the voting process more difficult and more assistance may be needed from the international community.

There are also concerns a second poll will result in a fresh surge of violence after the wave of Taliban attacks on polling day in August.

The UK sent additional troops to Afghanistan earlier this year to help strengthen security ahead of the election.

Two British soldiers died on the day of the presidential election although the Ministry of Defence said they had been on routine patrol, unconnected to election security.


The Conservatives and Lib Dems had called for a second round of voting, saying the flawed nature of the election damaged UK public support for the mission in Afghanistan.

Shadow foreign secretary William Hague said, in the absence of a government of national unity, a second vote was the "best way forward".

However, he asked ministers for reassurance there would be more international election observers this time around to root out vote-rigging.

Mr Brown told MPs last week he would further boost UK troop numbers but only if Nato allies followed suit and the Afghan government was prepared to send more of its own soldiers to the south of the country, where fierce battles are being fought with the Taliban.

The UK currently has 9,000 troops in Afghanistan, the second largest contingent after the US.

The US is currently reviewing its own troop presence in Afghanistan after a request from the head of international forces in the country, General Stanley McChrystal, for a further 40,000 troops.

The BBC's Andrew North in Kabul said Nato's Afghan strategy risked being paralysed until the deadlock over the presidential election was resolved.

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