Armitage: Afghan polls sign of good things

Oct. 6, 2004 at 4:31 PM

WASHINGTON, Oct. 6 (UPI) -- The No. 2 U.S. diplomat says the Afghan elections might be marred by violence, but the process "will be a very good harbinger of things to come."

"I think this election on Saturday the 9th will be a very good harbinger of things to come and I'm looking toward the spring elections, the parliamentary elections," Deputy U.S. Secretary of State Richard Armitage told the BBC during a Wednesday interview.

He conceded, however, "There will be violence ... there will be some intimidation."

Afghans will vote in their first election Saturday, with President Hamid Karzai expected to be the winner.

More than 10 million people have registered for the elections, some 40 percent of them women.

Armitage also conceded massive drugs problem in Afghanistan, where the narcotics trade is estimated to contribute up to 60 percent of the nation's gross domestic product, may pose a future problem.

"If we don't get a handle, along with the government of Afghanistan, on the narcotic problem ... we'll have a very successful operation ... (but) the patient would have died," he said.

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