H.E. President Karzai urges Iraqis to vote, hopes Afghans will follow 'very soon'

Kabul, January 28, 2005 – H.E. President Hamid Karzai has urged Iraqis to vote, also saying he wanted parliamentary elections in Afghanistan to be held "very very soon" without giving a specific date.

"Voting is the only way for our brothers and sisters in Iraq to have a government of their choice, to have complete peace and to have prosperity," H.E. President Karzai told reporters gathered at his palace in Kabul.

The October 9 presidential election in Afghanistan "was the defeat of all of those who did not want Afghanistan to live in a prosperous, peaceful environment," he added.

"Iraq is no exception... by voting they will actually determine their own future," H.E. President Karzai said.

Thousands of Iraqis living outside their country began voting Friday in the first elections since president Saddam Hussein was ousted in March 2003 during the US-led invasion with polls opening around the world -- notably in key Middle Eastern countries.

Polls for the battered country's 275-member Transitional National Assembly will be held in Iraq on Sunday amid increased militant attacks against US and Iraqi troops, candidates and civilians.

In Afghanistan, electoral authorities said last year that parliamentary, provincial and district elections should be held before the end of the Afghan month of Saur, the 20th of May in the western calendar.

But analysts expect a delay as the authorities did not respect a deadline last week to define electoral boundaries 120 days ahead of the polls.

The date of the polls "will be decided by the Afghan election commission together with the United Nations," Karzai said.

"They are studying it, they are having their technical preparations for the elections. I hope they can do it as soon as possible. We are in great hurry to have a parliament as soon as possible."