UN declares Afghan election "credible, legitimate"
* Afghan envoy says presidential election wasn't perfect
* Afghanistan welcomes idea of "second compact" - envoy
By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 9 (Reuters) - The U.N. General Assembly declared on Monday that Afghanistan's presidential election was both credible and sound, despite allegations of widespread fraud that led critics to question the vote's legitimacy.
In a unanimously adopted resolution, the 192-nation assembly also urged the government of re-elected Afghan President Hamid Karzai to press ahead with "strengthening of the rule of law and democratic processes, the fight against corruption (and) the acceleration of justice sector reform."
The fraud reported during the election and his chief rival's refusal to contest a run-off have damaged Karzai's credibility at the start of his second term. But the U.N. assembly raised no doubts about Karzai's mandate or his right to continue leading the country.
The resolution welcomed "the efforts of the relevant institutions to address irregularities identified by the electoral institutions in Afghanistan and to ensure a credible and legitimate process in accordance with the Afghan Election Law and in the framework of the Afghan Constitution."
Afghanistan's U.N. Ambassador Zahir Tanin said that his nation and government were "deeply grateful" for the assembly's vote of confidence. He acknowledged there were problems with the vote but added that no elections are perfect.
"They are even less perfect in an emerging democracy threatened by conflict," he told the assembly.
"Complaints and irregularities were uncovered and addressed in a meticulously fair and systematic way," Tanin said. "The elections were as free as possible, as fair as possible, and as transparent as possible."
Peter Galbraith, the former deputy to U.N. Afghanistan envoy Kai Eide, has accused his ex-boss of turning a blind eye to the extent of fraud in the Aug. 20 election. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon fired Galbraith in September for quarreling with his boss about the election.
NEW AFGHANISTAN "COMPACT"
Tanin told the assembly that his government welcomed calls for an international conference to renew its partnership with allies around the world and said Kabul supported the idea of agreeing to a "second compact" with the international community.
The first international "compact" with Afghanistan was agreed at a conference in London in 2006. That pact called for "good governance" in Afghanistan and other commitments on both sides, many of which remain unfulfilled.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said last week that a U.N. Afghanistan conference would likely take place in early 2010.
The assembly also expressed "great concern" about the links between illegal drug trade and Taliban militants, al Qaeda and "other extremist and criminal groups" in Afghanistan. The resolution urged the Afghan government to step up its counter-narcotics activities across the country.
Afghanistan produces 92 percent of the world's opium, a thick paste from poppy used to make heroin, and the equivalent of 3,500 tons of opium is trafficked out of Afghanistan every year, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has said.
Since 2005, the Taliban, who were overthrown in a U.S.-led invasion in 2001 but have come back with increased attacks, has made up to $160 million a year from taxing opium cultivation and trade in Afghanistan, the UNODC said last month. (Editing by Philip Barbara) (For more stories on Afghanistan, click [ID:nAFPAK]) (For more Reuters coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan, see: here)