Howitt heads for Afghanistan

THE East of England's only Labour Euro MP flew off to Afghanistan yesterday to observe the final stages of the country's parliamentary elections this weekend.

By Graham Dines

THE East of England's only Labour Euro MP flew off to Afghanistan yesterday to observe the final stages of the country's parliamentary elections this weekend.

Richard Howitt, the British representative among European Union observers, headed for the capital Kabul , vowed that the EU mission monitoring the historic vote would also assess whether Sunday's elections amounted to “the true political transition of Afghanistan in the face of insurgency, warlordism and ethnic violence.”

Mr Howitt, a veteran of election observation missions around the world, will take part in monitoring in Kabul, scene of the fall of the Taliban five years ago, as well as in Western Province where the United Nations was forced to freeze its operations in July, and in the Central Highlands where candidates have allegedly faced Taliban threats.


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Before leaving Brussels, Mr Howitt said: "With over a thousand deaths from political violence this year, the loss of 17 Spanish troops, kidnapping of an Italian aid worker and the tragic killing of a British contractor earlier this month, the European presence is a vital component of building peace and security in the face of continuing terrorist threats.”

He added: “Warlords and ex-Taliban officials running for office threaten to institutionalise rather than overcome conflict in the country.

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“Our role must be not simply to promote fair elections but to pave the way for effective democracy for those elected, the progressive replacement of coalition forces by the international security assistance force, and for a future political agreement between Afghanistan and the European Union.”

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