- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Vote recount begins; runoff ruling soon

KABUL | Afghanistan edged closer to a long-awaited resolution to August’s presidential vote Monday as election workers started recounting suspect ballots, and an official said a ruling on whether President Hamid Karzai won or will face a runoff is expected next week.

The Aug. 20 election was hampered by violence and allegations of vote-rigging that have since plunged the country into an electoral crisis, while Taliban militants are expanding from their southern strongholds into the north and west.

Preliminary results released last month showed that Mr. Karzai won the voting with 54.6 percent, enough to avoid a runoff with second-place finisher Abdullah Abdullah, his former foreign minister. But the recount and audit ordered by a U.N.-backed fraud panel could cut Mr. Karzai’s votes below the 50 percent threshold needed to win outright.

About 13 percent of the country’s approximately 26,300 polling stations are considered questionable by the fraud panel.


Kim amenable to six-party talks

BEIJING | North Korean leader Kim Jong-il on Monday told Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao that Pyongyang was willing to return to six-party nuclear-disarmament talks, the Xinhua News Agency said in a report from North Korea.

Mr. Wen and Mr. Kim “reached vital consensus on realizing the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” during talks in Pyongyang, it said.

“At the meeting, Kim said [North Korea] is willing to attend multilateral talks, including the six-party talks, depending on the progress in its talks with the United States,” Xinhua reported in a brief dispatch early Tuesday.


At least six dead in suicide blast

BAGHDAD | A suicide bomber killed at least six mourners at a funeral for a member of a prominent tribe with ties to security forces and insurgents in western Iraq on Monday, a police official said.

The bomber detonated an explosive belt inside a funeral tent in the mostly Sunni area of Haditha, about 140 miles northwest of Baghdad. At least 15 people were injured, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media.

The funeral was for a member of the al-Jaghaifa tribe, which is split between members of the police and military and supporters of the Sunni insurgency.

In southern Iraq, meanwhile, the country’s most senior Shi’ite cleric threatened to call for a boycott of January’s parliamentary elections if the voting system includes only the parties and not the names of the candidates.


Conservatives tussle over Europe policy

MANCHESTER | Britain’s Conservatives met Monday for what many expect to be their last annual conference in opposition, but the excitement was clouded by a row over the party’s policy on Europe.

While they should be relishing a double-digit poll lead over Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Labor Party that would see them win the next election due by June, the Conservatives are struggling to paper over divisions over the Lisbon Treaty.

The issue is being closely watched in Brussels, where EU leaders hope the approval of the reforming treaty by Irish voters in a referendum Friday will soon see it pass into law.

Conservative leader David Cameron has promised a referendum on the treaty, which he opposes, as long as it has not already been ratified by all 27 EU member states by the time he takes office.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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