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    US supports no Afghan presidential hopeful: envoy

    MAZAR-I-SHARIF (PAN): US Ambassador to Afghanistan James B. Cunningham on Thursday said his country supported Afghanistan's election process in the lead up to 2014 presidential ballot, "not a particular candidate."

    Cunningham, who attended a joint press conference with Balkh Governor Atta Mohammad Noor after their talks in Mazar-i-Sharif, insisted that the soon to come presidential election had a great importance in shaping Afghanistan's future. 

    At their talks in the Governor’s Office, Cunningham said he and Noor discussed how to preserve the achievements made over the past decade in diverse fields . They also conferred on transparency in 2014 polls,  the peace process, administrative corruption and the release of Afghan Taliban prisoners by Pakistan. 

    “The United Nations, the Afghan government, parliament and opposition political parties, all want to have transparent and fair election this time and the US is trying on its part to achieve that goal,” he said.

    Cunningham stressed all available resources should be used to prevent irregularities in the upcoming election.

    On the proposed inclusion of two foreigners in new election complaints hearing body, the US diplomat said the matter rested with the Afghan government. He said there were many ways through which election process could be monitored.

    However, Noor emphasised on the inclusion, saying it would help the complaints commission investigate election-related allegations properly.

    The governor saw the use of old voter cards in 2014 election as an attempt aimed at paving the ground for possible fraud. He called insecurity in Balkh one of the major problems that could derail efforts at holding new polls. He asked the central government to take practical steps ensure the elections were peaceful and fair.

    Noor also welcomed the release of Afghan Taliban prisoners by Pakistan, but added they should have been freed under a proper mechanism. He feared those released by Pakistan could join their comrades on the battlefield.