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8/19/04 - AFGHANS REGISTER TO VOTE - 2004-08-16

U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad is calling on Afghans to use their upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections to choose leaders who will promote national unity and act for the good of all Afghan citizens. “Afghans know,” said Ambassador Khalilzad, “that this is their great chance to build a successful political system and a successful country.”

The Afghan people are taking advantage of their new-found freedom. Over nine million Afghans have registered to vote for the October 9th presidential elections and the spring 2005 legislative elections. This has happened despite violence from remnants of the ousted Taleban regime and the al-Qaida terrorist network, which are seeking to disrupt Afghanistan’s election process. Afghanistan’s Interior Minister Ali Jalali says the interim government is taking steps to safeguard the election:

"During the elections, the police forces, the Afghan National Army, the Afghan militia forces, coalition forces, and NATO are committed to provide security.”

Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah says the people of Afghanistan will not be intimidated by terrorists:

"Those who are fighting against the people of Afghanistan, the government of Afghanistan, they are the people who are against normal life -- and they are leaving you with no choice but to go after them.”

Coalition spokesman Major Jon Siepmann says the U.S.-led coalition is working to stop attacks on Afghan civilians and government officials:

“Although these attacks are deplorable, they're not entirely unexpected. We see a disintegrating organization of terrorists and militants desperate to try and affect the elections process.”

In the words of President George W. Bush, the United States and its allies will stand with the people of Afghanistan as “partners in their quest for peace and prosperity, stability and democracy. The road ahead,” says Mr. Bush, “is still long and difficult. Yet the Afghan people can know that their country will never be abandoned to terrorists and killers.”