UN, major powers warn Afghanistan over election
The United States and United Nations on Tuesday warned Afghanistan that ensuring a credible presidential election next year would be "critical" to maintaining international support after 2014.
UN leader Ban Ki-Moon also said he was "deeply disturbed" at the lack of action taken by Afghan authorities over growing numbers of killings of women.
The warnings came amid growing tensions between President Hamid Karzai and the United States and the NATO-led international force which is due to leave Afghanistan next year.
"An inclusive and credible presidential election in 2014 is critical for the country's future and to sustaining international assistance to the people of Afghanistan," US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice said.
"The results of this election must produce an outcome that is legitimately accepted by the Afghan people," Rice told a council meeting on Afghanistan.
"It is important that respected and professional leaders are appointed to election institutions after a widely consultative process."
Afghanistan's election commission has announced a presidential election for April next year and Karzai has repeatedly said he will step down after two terms, but diplomats have expressed fears about the organization of the vote.
France and Britain joined the call for "credible" elections and for the Afghan authorities to set up systems to prevent fraud that has marked previous votes.
"Broad participation and a credible process are essential to reaching the goal of a widely accepted leadership transition," Ban told the meeting.
Australia is currently coordinating Security Council action on Afghanistan and also has a large presence in the international force.
"We must send a clear message that Afghanistan will not stand alone," said Australia's Foreign Minister Bob Carr, but added that the presidential election would be "vital".
"It is critical the Afghan government set up an appropriate electoral framework. The government must lead the way to inclusive elections which are accepted by the Afghan people," said Carr.
Afghanistan's UN envoy Zahir Tanin said the government was "committed to fair, democratic, transparent and inclusive elections."
"There is overwhelming consensus that a successful and credible election will be necessary for stability and lasting peace," he added.
A Security Council resolution which renewed the mandate of the UN political mission in Afghanistan for one more year highlighted commitments made by the Afghan government "to strengthen and improve Afghanistan's electoral process."
The resolution also expressed "serious concern with the high number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan, in particular women and children, the increasingly large majority of which are caused by the Taliban, AI-Qaida and other violent and extremist groups."
The UN says there was a 20 percent increase in deaths of women and girls in Afghanistan in 2012.
"I remain deeply disturbed that despite some improvements in prosecuting cases of violence, there is still a pervasive climate of impunity in Afghanistan for abuses of women and girls," Ban said.
Afghanistan passed a law on violence against women in 2009 but many observers say it has barely been applied.