Afghanistan rules out suspending presidential elections


Kabul, Aug 11 (IANS): The President of Afghanistan has ruled out postponing the country's upcoming elections because of ongoing peace talks between the US and the Taliban.

Ashraf Ghani said the vote on September 28 will go ahead as planned, in his address to the nation on Sunday to mark the Islamic festival of Eid al-Azha, Efe news reported.

"Election is vital... for taking strong and difficult decisions in peace process. Afghanistan needs to elect a president and to have a new government so it can make powerful and difficult peace decisions with full authority and dignity," he said.

According to Efe news, Ghani has cleared doubts about any delays in holding the elections on account of the negotiation underway in Doha, something highlighted by several Afghan politicians in recent days.

"Rumours are circulating that the foreigners want this or that. Our future fate will not be decided in foreign countries... the future and fate of this country will be decided here in Afghanistan," he added.

Ghani, who is seeking re-election, will lock horns with his Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, and 16 other candidates in the vote.

Peace negotiations between the US and the Taliban are in the eighth round. The talks are working towards an agreement on the withdrawal of foreign troops and assurances that Afghanistan will not be used by terrorist groups to attack another country.

An agreement with Washington is expected to pave the way for direct talks between the Taliban, the government and Afghan leaders.

Last month, the Afghan government announced a 15-member team to directly negotiate an eventual peace agreement, a process that insurgents say will not begin until they first reach an agreement with the US on withdrawal of international troops.

"The peace will be a nationwide peace, not regional, partisan or ethnic, the peace will be belonging to all Afghans," Ghani said.

Taliban member Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwah recently said that the US and Taliban negotiators were likely to sign a peace agreement after the Eid celebrations, which will conclude on August 13, according to Afghan media outlet Tolo News.

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