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Sunday, 06 September 2009

2 September 2009 News Digest

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By Alima Bissenova (9/6/2009 issue of the CACI Analyst)

tajik ambassador says youth should not study Islam in Pakistan 20 August Tajik Ambassador to Pakistan Zubaidullo Zubaidov says Pakistan should remove Tajikistan from a list of countries that illegally send young people to study in Pakistani schools, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports. Although Tajik officials say they have curbed the number of Tajiks going to Pakistan to study at madrassahs, or religious schools, they are still concerned that an estimated 300 Tajiks are studying there without permission. Zubaidov said that the curriculum and living conditions in such schools are not good and it is better for young Tajiks to study at religious schools in Tajikistan.

tajik ambassador says youth should not study Islam in Pakistan 20 August Tajik Ambassador to Pakistan Zubaidullo Zubaidov says Pakistan should remove Tajikistan from a list of countries that illegally send young people to study in Pakistani schools, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports. Although Tajik officials say they have curbed the number of Tajiks going to Pakistan to study at madrassahs, or religious schools, they are still concerned that an estimated 300 Tajiks are studying there without permission. Zubaidov said that the curriculum and living conditions in such schools are not good and it is better for young Tajiks to study at religious schools in Tajikistan. Davlat Nazriev, chief of the Tajik Foreign Ministry's Information Department, told RFE/RL that most of the Tajik students studying illegally in Pakistan traveled there as tourists and were able to find the means to stay and study.  One young Tajik man told RFE/RL he was sent to a Pakistani madrasah during the Tajik civil war when he was a refugee in Afghanistan and spent five years in very difficult conditions. Tajik Education Ministry official Vahhobjon Abdulazizov told RFE/RL that this year Tajikistan will officially send just 10 students to Pakistan, and that they will study technical subjects. (RFE/RL)

Georgia Detains vessel en route to Abkhazia 20 August Georgian coast guard detained a vessel heading from breakaway Abkhazia, the second case of this type in last two days, the Georgian Border Police reported on August 20. The vessel, flying the Cambodian flag, with seven crew members onboard – all citizens of Syria – was transporting 1,255 tones of ferrous metal scrap from the breakaway region’s capital Sokhumi to Turkey, according to the Border Police. The Georgian law on occupied territories bans economic activities in breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia without Tbilisi’s authorization.  On August 17 Georgia detained a Turkish cargo vessel carrying fuel to the breakaway region’s capital Sokhumi, triggering the Abkhaz side’s protest. Captain of the vessel, a Turkish citizen, was sent to pre-trial detention by the Georgian court and the vessel may be put up for auction. Abkhaz leader, Sergey Bagapsh, said after the Turkish vessel was detained that Sokhumi would resort to “proportional measures” to protect vessels en route to, and from Abkhazia if Tbilisi continued “piracy”. Sergey Shamba, the foreign minister of breakaway region, told Interfax news agency, that Abkhazia had enough force to give “a proportional” response to Georgia’s actions. According to the Georgian Border Police total of four vessels were detained this year for unauthorized economic activities in Abkhazia. (Civil Georgia)

Kazakh Officials ban uyghyr photo exhibit on china clashes 21 August Uyghur activists in Kazakhstan were stopped from holding a press conference and photo exhibition on the ethnic clashes in China's Xinjiang Province, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports. Abdurashid Turdiev and Yermek Narymbaev, the cochairmen of the Kazakh-Uyghur Friendship Society, planned the events for August 21 but were detained by police. They spent 90 minutes in custody before being released. Narymbaev said they wanted to show journalists and other Almaty citizens 380 pictures taken during the clashes between ethnic Uyghurs and Han Chinese in Urumqi -- the capital of the Xinjiang-Uyghur Autonomous Region -- that began on July 5. The leader of the Uyghur Society in Kazkahstan and World Uyghur Congress Deputy Chairman Kaharman Kozhamberdiev told RFE/RL that he is shocked that officials did not allow the photo exhibition to take place. He said the pictures could give Kazakhs a true picture of what happened in Urumqi. Official data provided by the Chinese media says about 200 people died and over 1,600 were injured in the clashes. Uyghur activists say the toll is much higher and that hundreds of Uyghurs have been arrested and imprisoned since the events. (RFE/RL)

 

GEORGIA DETAINS SHIP CAPTAIN OVER ABKHAZIA  25 August  A former captain of a Turkish cargo vessel, Buket, was arrested on August 24 on the charges related to unauthorized entry into the breakaway Abkhazia’s port, the Georgian Border Police said on Tuesday. An Azerbaijani citizen, Ilgar Imanverdiev, was arrested in Georgia’s port of Batumi, where his current ship was docked, according to the Georgian Border Police. “On June 14, 2009 he delivered with tanker [Buket] 2,600 tones of gasoline from Ukraine to the port of Sokhumi,” it said. Buket itself was detained by the Georgian coast guard in mid-August when it was transporting 2,000 tones of gasoline and 700 tones of diesel fuel to Sokhumi. Its current captain was remanded in two-month pre-trial detention. The Georgian Border Police said that Buket was detained for “multiple” unauthorized entry into the Abkhaz port. The Georgian law on occupied territories bans economic activities in breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia without Tbilisi’s authorization. A Turkish operator of the cargo ship, Densa Tanker Operators, said Buket made five trips to Sokhumi in last twelve months. The operator company said in a statement last week that Buket was detained by the Georgian coast guard outside the Georgian territorial waters, as well as the country’s economic zone - 96 miles from the Turkish port of Sinop and 256 miles from the Georgian port of Poti – in the international waters. The Turkish business daily Referans reported on August 25 that Turkey’s Eastern Black Sea Exporters Association called on the government to raise the issue of seizure of the Turkish vessels with the Georgian authorities. According to this report Georgia seized about 100 vessels in last 15 years and still holds 10 vessels, including cargo ships and fishing boats. In a separate development, but related to unauthorized Abkhaz entry, Georgian court sent a captain of cargo vessel, Afro Star, to two-month pre-trial detention. The vessel with seven crew members – all citizens of Syria – onboard was detained last week by the Georgian coast guard when it was sailing from Sokhumi to Turkey. (Civil Georgia)

 

GEORGIAN PARTY CLAIMS TURKEY IS BUILDING NAVAL BASE IN ABKHAZIA FOR RUSSIA  27 August

 Turkish company Tamsas is taking part in the construction of a Russian naval base at the port of Ochamchira in Abkhazia, Georgia's Green Party said. "It  is absolutely unclear how Turkey, a NATO member, can be taking part in  the  construction of a Russian naval base in occupied Abkhazia. Hence the  questions  for  the NATO leadership: what is exactly Turkey's role in  the North Atlantic alliance and why is Turkey helping Russia to strengthen  its  positions  in the Black Sea region?" Green Party leader Giorgiy  Gachechiladze said at a briefing on Thursday. The  Georgian  Foreign  Ministry  should also give its explanations concerning  the  matter,  because the NATO leadership keeps claiming its support  of  Georgia's territorial integrity, whereas "in reality a NATO member,  Turkey,  is  building a military base for Georgia's enemy, " he said.  Neither Russian, nor Turkish officials were available for comment on the matter. (Interfax) 

 

HOLBROOKE, KARZAI REPORTEDLY ARGUE OVER ALLEGED AFGHAN VOTE FRAUD28 August 

According to reports from Kabul, U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke is believed to have had an argument with Afghan President Hamid Karzai -- with Holbrooke complaining alleged fraud by members of Karzai's own campaign team, as well as by other candidates. Sources say Karzai reacted angrily to the accusations, while a spokesman denied any heated exchange took place. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Kabul is denying reports that Holbrooke and Karzai shouted at one another, or that Holbrooke angrily stormed out of the meeting. A U.S. official in Washington, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the meeting was "difficult" and that there had been some "sharp exchanges." That official says Holbrooke's points during the meeting were that Afghanistan must respect the electoral process, be patient, and respect the results. U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley says it is too early for Washington to announce suspicions that the election outcome was altered by fraud. "We're in a delicate time here," Crowley said. "We're going to wait and see what the results of the elections are. We're going to wait and see what the composition of the Afghan government is. As a strategic imperative, we are working hard with the international community [and] with the sitting Afghan government to create institutions that will meet the needs of the Afghan people." Marvin Weinbaum, a former U.S. State Department analyst who monitored last week's presidential and provincial Afghan elections, told RFE/RL that he has seen every indication that fraud was widespread. "Everyone knows that an election in Afghanistan was going to have a certain amount of fraudulent voting," Weinbaum said. "There is no way to avoid this. The question has been all along: Would that be of such a scale -- would that be of such a dimension -- that subjectively, the public and the international community would say that the fraud which took place was too much?" Two early batches of vote tallies show Karzai with nearly 45 percent of the vote, compared to 35 percent for Abdullah. His lead was expected to grow further as the tallying continues. But that may now be delayed as the electoral commission investigates the fraud allegations further. (RFE/RL)

 

UZBEKISTAN SHUTS BORDER WITH KYRGYZSTAN FOR INDEPENDENCE DAY  28 August  Uzbekistan unilaterally closed its border with Kyrgyzstan for two weeks as of August 28, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports. The Uzbek side said the reason is its planned celebrations of the country's Independence Day on September 1 and marking of the 2,200th anniversary of Tashkent, the capital. The celebrations are expected to last for several days. In May this year, several insurgents attacked police in the Uzbek cities of Khanabad and Andijan near the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border. Tashkent officially accused the Kyrgyz Border Guard Service, saying the attackers entered the Uzbek territory from Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyz authorities denied the accusations. (RFE/RL)    AFGHANISTAN’S DOSTUM LEAVES COUNTRY AFTER VOTE  29 August  Afghan ex-militia chief Abdul Rashid Dostum, who returned to the country days before last week's presidential election to campaign for incumbent Hamid Karzai, has again left, his spokesman has said. The United States and United Nations had both expressed concern when Dostum, a leader of the ethnic Uzbek community and former communist general who led militias through decades of civil war, flew into the country on the eve of the vote. His support among millions of his fellow ethnic Uzbeks could yet prove decisive in the outcome of the election, which is close and has yet to be fully published. "First of all General Dostum came back on the invitation of the Afghan government to support Karzai in election," spokesman Naqibullah Fayeq said. "President Karzai got remarkable support from the Uzbek community due to General Dostum." Fayeq said Dostum had returned to Turkey on August 26, but intended to come back to Afghanistan again at the end of the Ramadan holy month, which began last week. Dostum had been living in Turkey for months, until the Afghan government announced hours before his return that he was free to come home. It had never been made clear whether his exile was self-imposed or ordered. He has denied numerous accusations of human rights abuses, including that his forces were responsible for killing Taliban prisoners in 2001. The United States said when he returned that it was concerned about his rights record and the prospect of him possibly being given a post in Karzai's government. Fayeq said one of Dostum's goals in Turkey would be to meet U.S. officials and clear his name over the rights accusations. (Reuters)    RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS TO HELP PROTECT SHIPS HEADING FOR ABKHAZIA FROM GEORGIAN ATTACKS  28 September

 Joint actions by Russian and Abkhaz border guards will not let Georgia seize vessels carrying civilian cargo to Abkhazia  anymore,  Zurab  Margania,  the  head  of  the Abkhaz State Security Service's border service, told Interfax. "The   Russian   Federation's  agreement  with  Abkhazia  on  joint protection  of  the border envisions joint actions to guarantee security in the republic's territorial waters," he said. "Russian and Abkhaz border services are coordinating a joint action plan to  prevent  acts  of piracy by Georgian border guards in the Black Sea," Margania said. Russian  Federal  Security Service (FSB) Border Service deputy head Yevgeny Inchin had earlier told journalists in Moscow that Russian coast guard services  would  protect  vessels  heading  for  Abkhazia from any sorties on Georgia's part. (Interfax) 

 

AFGHAN ELECTION FRAUD PROBE GROWS30 August Election complaints officials in Afghanistan say they are looking into more than 560 major allegations of fraud from the 20 August vote. The tally doubles the figure of serious allegations reported two days ago. Full preliminary results are due next week, but the final results will not be made official until major fraud allegations are investigated. The latest partial results give President Hamid Karzai 46% of the votes compared to Abdullah Abdullah's 31.4%. A candidate needs 50% of votes cast to avoid a second round run-off which, if needed, would be held in October.  The independent Electoral Complaints Commission said on Sunday that of more than 2,000 allegations of fraud and intimidation during voting and vote-counting, 567 had been deemed serious enough to affect the election's outcome, if proven. On Friday, the commission had reported 270 major allegations. With two-thirds of polling stations still to announce their results, Mr Abdullah has already alleged "massive, state-crafted" fraud. He told the BBC on Saturday that ballot boxes had been stuffed with hundreds of thousands of votes. "My concern is about massive fraud, state-crafted, state-engineered fraud which has taken place throughout the country," he said. Mr Karzai has rejected allegations of state-crafted fraud. His comments came days after it emerged that US special envoy to Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke, in a meeting with Mr Karzai, raised concerns about ballot-stuffing and fraud by a number of candidates' teams. However, officials of both Mr Holbrooke and Mr Karzai denied reports their talks had been "explosive" and a "dramatic bust-up." With the election commission saying just over two million votes had now been counted, Kabul lawmaker Ramazan Bashardost was placed in third position, ahead of former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani. (BBC)

Fatal shoot-out rocks Uzbek capital, despite tight security measures 31 August Details remain unclear about a series of reported shooting incidents that rocked the capital Tashkent late on August 29 evening. At least two people were killed in the shootings, although human rights activists speaking to RFE/RL's Uzbek Service say the number could be as high as six. In addition, at least three law enforcement officers were wounded in the shoot-out, which took place near the Kukcha Mosque and the First Hospital in Tashkent's old city. Local witnesses said police cordoned off the area as they began firing at two men who tried to hide in a two-story building. Special police forces were also seen at the scene. According to witnesses, the shoot-out lasted for about 20 minutes. Several armored personnel carriers rushed to the area, followed by ambulances. One or both of the confirmed fatalities are believed to be police officers. However, witness reports suggest passersby may also have killed in the shooting. Surat Ikromov, a Tashkent-based human rights activist, said he arrived in the Kukcha area an hour after the shooting and eyewitnesses told him that "two women were killed there. Other sources say several policemen were injured and were taken to nearby First Hospital. So far, government agencies are not giving any information." The regional news website ferghana.ru quoted witnesses as saying several other shoot-outs took place the same night in different areas of Tashkent, including the neighborhood of Algoritm, the Farhad bazaar, and three streets in the Chilanzar district.  Uzbek authorities have not officially commented on the incidents, but at least one Uzbek website quoted Interior Ministry officials as saying the shoot-out in Kukcha was a police raid against "high-profile" criminals. (RFE/RL)

Armenia, Turkey approve schedule of border opening, diplomatic relations 31 August The Armenian-Turkish border will be opened within two months after the effective date of the protocol on the development  of  the  relations  between the two countries, the Armenian Foreign Ministry told Interfax on Monday. Armenia  and  Turkey  have agreed to establish bilateral diplomatic relations  on  the  basis  of  the  1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations immediately after its signing, the protocol says. Two  months  after the protocol on the development of the relations enters in effect the Armenian and Turkish foreign ministries will set up a working  group  that will prepare regulations for an intergovernmental commission and its sub-commissions, the ministry said in a statement. A document     regulating    the   intergovernmental   commission's proceedings  at  ministerial  level will be approved within three months after the  protocol's  effective  date, according to the schedule of the protocol on the establishment of the diplomatic relations. Also, a sub-commission  on  historical  matters will be formed to "hold a dialog aimed at restoring confidence between the two nations and clarifying  the existing issues and the wordings of proposals through an unbiased scientific research of historical documents and records." On Monday the Armenian, Turkish and Swiss foreign ministries issued a joint  statement that Armenia and Turkey have agreed to start internal political  consultations  on  the  establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. (Interfax)

 

ABKHAZ WOMAN FOUND GUILTY OF SPYING FOR GEORGIA, GETS 19 YEARS IN JAIL  1 September

 Abkhazia's Supreme Court has found 40 year-old  Diana  Shedania  (Aseyeva),  a resident of Abkhazia, guilty of spying for Georgia, and sentenced her to 19 years in jail. Shedania  was  detained  by  the  Abkhaz  State Security Service in September  2008.  A  camera  with photos and video films, showing Abkhaz military   installations,   was   seized   during   her   detention.  An investigation subsequently established that Shedania had been recruited by agent Kakhaber Kvartskhelia of Georgian special services. The woman "gathered information and made photos of military bases, checkpoints on the Georgian-Abkhaz border, other military installations, ammunition  depots,  fuel and lubricants storage facilities, and various types of  military hardware, used by the Abkhaz armed forces," according to Abkhaz special services. Investigators   also   found   out   that  Shedania  had  delivered information to Kvartskhelia by mobile phone, or during personal meetings in Georgia's Zugdidi. A recording  of  a  telephone  conversation,  examined  at Russia's southern regional forensic center, confirmed that the voice recorded was Shedania's. The woman had been under observation since June 2008. Investigators have established  that  as  an  agent  of  Georgian special services she gathered information ranging from the number of ships at Abkhaz ports to the busiest public places in cities. Shedania  claimed in the court that the evidence she had written at the pre-trail  detention  facility had resulted from the pressure put on her. She denied her being acquainted with the Georgian secret agent, but agreed that the voice on the recording was hers. "Suspect Shedania's contradictory evidence attests to her desire to escape criminal liability," the verdict says. (Interfax) 

 

Turkish-Armenian Talks welcomed 1 September Members of the world community welcomed joint statements made by Turkey and Armenia regarding a move toward normalized bilateral relations. In a joint statement Monday, the governments of Turkey and Armenia announced they would work toward normalizing diplomatic ties and bilateral relations. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu also called for a settlement of Armenian issues with Azerbaijan. Turkish relations with Armenia were complicated by claims of genocide during the Ottoman Empire. Recent ties are complicated over disputes regarding the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, an area of dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Ian Kelly, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, said Washington "warmly welcomes" the joint statement. "It has long been and remains the position of the United States that normalization should take place without preconditions and within a reasonable time frame," he said. Turkey earlier this year said it would open its borders with Armenia in time for a World Cup qualifying match set for October. Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, the chairperson for the OSCE, welcomed the joint decision as a step toward normalization of relations in the South Caucuses region. "I warmly welcome this positive step toward normalization of ties between two OSCE participating states," she said. Swiss-mediated talks between Turkey and Armenia are expected to last about six weeks. (UPI)

 

Afghan Suicide Bomber Kills 23, Including Officials 2 September A suicide bomber struck in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least 23 people, including the deputy head of the country's intelligence agency, the provincial governor's spokesman has said. Sayed Ahmad Safi, spokesman for the governor of Laghman Province, said the deputy head of the National Directorate of Security, Abdullah Laghmani, was among the dead, as were the heads of the provincial council and provincial executive body. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the attack was carried out by a suicide car bomber who was a member of the group. The bomber struck near a mosque in the provincial capital, Mehtar Lam, in mountains about 100 kilometers east of Kabul. A Reuters witness in the town saw a pickup truck carrying wounded people covered in blood. Eight ambulances left the scene, headed towards Jalalabad, the nearest big city. A police source said provincial Governor Lutfullah Mashal had also been wounded, however the governor's spokesman could not confirm that. (Reuters) Kazakh Rights Activist Says Lawsuit Ordered From Above 2 September A prominent human rights activist in Kazakhstan says he believes a lawsuit being filed against him for his role in a fatal traffic accident was ordered by higher officials, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports. Yevgeny Zhovtis, the director of the Bureau for Human Rights in Kazakhstan, told journalists in Almaty that he does not know if the order was politically motivated but that he is confident that the lawsuit was ordered by someone. Zhovtis was driving a car on July 26 on a highway in Almaty Oblast when he struck and killed a man. A first test showed no alcohol in Zhovtis's blood. A technical examination of the accident reported that he had no chance to avoid the accident, which occurred when a drunk man reportedly entered the street in front of Zhovtis's car. Kazakh authorities decided several days later to order a second forensics test. That one found alcohol in Zhovtis's blood, and technical experts concluded that Zhovtis might have prevented the accident. Zhovtis's lawyer, Sholpan Baktalova, told journalists that her client was informed that he was considered to be a witness in the case. Since then, she says, official documents have surfaced that show that an investigator signed a resolution on July 28 identifying Zhovtis as a suspect in the case. Baktalova says the status of a suspect gives a person specific rights, but the fact that Zhovtis was not aware that he was regarded as a suspect deprived him of those rights. The court in the town of Bakanas in Almaty Oblast is scheduled to begin hearings on Zhovtis's case on August 27. Several human rights groups claim that Zhovtis's case is an effort to pressure him because of his pro-opposition activities.  (RFE/RL)

 

Baku upset over Turkish-Armenian efforts 2 September Recent sentiments regarding diplomatic relations between Turkey and Armenia are in direct opposition to the interests of Azerbaijan, officials say. The governments of Turkey and Armenia in a joint statement Monday said they would work toward repairing diplomatic relations, damaged from decades of acrimony. Turkish relations with Armenia were complicated by claims of genocide during the Ottoman Empire. Recent ties are complicated over disputes regarding the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, an area of dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in May that the borders would remain closed until Armenian forces withdraw from the contested territories. Ankara in April, however, said it would open its borders with Armenia in time for an October qualifying match for the World Cup tournament. The foreign minister of Azerbaijan in official statements Tuesday said Baku recognized Ankara's sovereign rights, but noted many of the issues were in opposition to Azeri national interests. Elkhan Pokhulov, a spokesman for the Azeri Foreign Ministry, told Turkish daily Today's Zaman that the border issue was of particular concern."If it opens," he said, "it is in opposition to Azerbaijan's national interests." (UPI)

Two Russian journalists barred from Georgia entry 2 September Two Russian journalists had to return back to Moscow from the Tbilisi airport after they were denied entry into Georgia on September 2. Vladimir Mamontov, an editor-in-chief of daily Izvestia and Maxim Shevchenko, a host of TV talk-show on Russia’s Channel One, were in a delegation, which arrived in Tbilisi to participate in series of round table discussions on Russia-Georgia relations. The Georgian authorities cited Shevchenko’s and Mamontov’s illegal trips to breakaway Abkhazia as a reason behind the refusal to let the two journalists in the country. Georgia’s law on occupied territories bans entry into breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia from the Russian territories. Alan Kasaev, an editor of RIA Novosti news agency, was a third member of the delegation; he was allowed to enter into Georgia. The visit is organized by Georgian-Russian public council, which was established after the August war with an aim to keep contacts between a group of journalists and political experts of the two countries. The council is chaired by Malkhaz Gulashvili, president of the Georgian Times media holding. Gulashvili condemned the Georgian authorities move and said barring “two famous journalists” from entry would be “harmful for Georgia.” (Civil Georgia)

Afghan election fraud row mounts 3 September A row over alleged fraud in the Afghan presidential election has intensified, after a tribe in the south made the most serious claim so far. The leader of Kandahar's Bareez tribe says that nearly 30,000 votes were cast fraudulently for President Hamid Karzai instead of a challenger. Mr Karzai's brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, who heads the Kandahar provincial council, called the claims "baseless".  The Electoral Complaints Commission is probing more than 2,000 fraud claims.  The claims could undermine the legitimacy of the election, which Afghanistan's Western allies see as crucial in their campaign against the Taliban. Because the complaints commission has so many irregularities to investigate - 600 of them serious - our correspondent says final results of the presidential election may not be known until the end of September. A result is scheduled for 17 September but fraud allegations must be cleared before it is made official. With ballots from 60.3% of polling stations tallied, Mr Karzai has 1,744,428 votes to 1,201,838 for Mr Abdullah, representing a lead of 47.3% to 32.6%. A candidate needs 50% of the votes to avoid a run-off. Western powers have played down concerns over fraud although they have stressed a fair outcome is vital. US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke said at a meeting on Afghanistan in Paris on Wednesday that irregularities were normal in any democracy. (BBC)
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