* UN will work to make Nov. 7 run-off poll credible
* Ban denies that UN played down extent of fraud
(Adds quotes, details)
By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 20 U.N. Secretary-General
Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday welcomed Afghan President Hamid Karzai's
acceptance of a run-off presidential election but said
organizing a second poll would be a "huge challenge."
"I commend President Karzai for the leadership he has
displayed and for his commitment to ensuring full respect for
Afghanistan's constitution and its democratic processes," Ban
told reporters at U.N. headquarters.
Ban said the world body would do everything possible to
make the Nov. 7 run-off election in Afghanistan between Karzai
and his former foreign minister transparent and credible.
"You can understand there's a huge challenge in conducting
a second election," Ban said. "We will try to ensure that all
Afghan people should be able to express their own will freely
without intimidation or threat."
"We'll do our best ... to make these elections fair and
free of fraudulence," he said.
Ban acknowledged that there had been widespread fraud in
the Aug. 20 election. He also dismissed criticism that the
United Nations had tried to play down the extent of the fraud
in the disputed vote.
"We must not repeat what they have done last time," he said
about the widespread problems with the vote.
Ban's special envoy to Afghanistan, Norwegian diplomat Kai
Eide, appeared with Karzai at a news conference in Kabul, where
the Afghan leader announced his decision to accept the ruling
of the government-appointed Independent Election Commission.
BAN REJECTS CRITICISM OF U.N. ROLE
The IEC's ruling came after a U.N. election fraud watchdog
invalidated tens of thousands of votes for Karzai. That
investigation, published on Monday, pushed the vote for Karzai
back below the 50 percent level needed to avoid a run-off.
The decision however presents a logistical nightmare, with
Afghanistan's harsh winter approaching fast.
Ban was asked if he felt the United Nations had lost
credibility because he fired Eide's American former deputy
Peter Galbraith, who had complained that Eide had turned a
blind eye toward the extent of the fraud in the August vote.
Without responding directly, Ban said Galbraith's proposals
would not have improved the outcome of the summer election.
"The idea suggested by Mr. Peter Galbraith was to reduce
the number of polling stations to prevent possible fraud," he
said. "That was not acceptable."
"Our principle was to open as many polling stations as
possible so that as many people (as possible) could participate
in their vote," he added. "The question did not arise whether
there was fraud or not. We knew that there was fraud. We
reported that there was fraud."
Eide has repeatedly denied Galbraith's allegations that he
played down the problems with the election, saying the charges
were unfair and untrue.
(Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Stacey
Joyce and Jackie Frank)