The United Nations Security Council today called on Afghanistan's authorities to accelerate the disarmament of ex-combatants, strengthen the country's army and police and do more to cut opium production ahead of the scheduled presidential and parliamentary elections.
In a statement read out at an open meeting by Ambassador Mihnea Ioan Motoc of Romania, this month's President, the Council noted last week's announcement by Afghan electoral authorities to hold the presidential poll on 9 October and delay the parliamentary polls until next April.
Describing the elections as "a new milestone in the process of constructing a democratic, stable and prosperous Afghanistan," the Council said the remaining time before the polls must be used to ensure they are free and fair.
It called for greater efforts to allow Afghan refugees still living in neighbouring Iran and Pakistan to register to vote, and said women should also be encouraged to register.
The Council also said the international community must play its role in helping Afghanistan achieve successful democratic elections - the first after decades of war and one-party rule.
Meanwhile, more than 7 million Afghans - over two-thirds of the estimated electorate - have registered to vote, and the gender gap is closing as a greater percentage of women continue to sign up, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) announced today.
Briefing reporters in Kabul, UNAMA spokesman David Singh said provisional figures show that 7,175,651 Afghans have registered so far. But this figure is considered incomplete because it leaves out results from remote regions of the country.
More than 40 per cent of the registered voters are female - the highest proportion since registration began last December. In total, 4.3 million men are registered and almost 2.9 million women.
Afghanistan's electoral authorities have said they are uncertain of the exact number of eligible voters, but the most recent estimate places the total at about 9.5 million. More than two decades of civil war and harsh Taliban rule, followed by more war and slow reconstruction, mean the country has not had a formal census since 1979.