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Karzai appoints electoral officials

| April 18, 2010 9:00 PM

KABUL (AP) - President Hamid Karzai took key steps toward reforming the country's electoral system Saturday, naming a respected former judge to head Afghanistan's election-organizing body and backing down from a bid to keep international representatives off a separate team that monitors fraud.

The moves come after months of demands by the U.S. and its allies to clean up the electoral process following massive fraud in last year's presidential balloting. Without meeting those demands, the Afghan government risked losing both funds for an upcoming parliamentary vote and broader international support.

Disagreements about how to handle last year's fraud-marred presidential vote nearly derailed the U.S.-Afghan partnership, even as President Barack Obama was ordering thousands more U.S. troops to try to turn back the Taliban. Many international diplomats and officials have been worried that parliamentary elections scheduled for September could prove similarly disastrous.

Karzai also named three Afghans and two U.N. representatives to the separate, U.N.-backed watchdog group that uncovered the fraud in the Aug. 20 presidential election. The U.N. said it was now recommending that donor nations release money set aside to fund the parliamentary vote.

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