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Germany

Germany Cheers Afghan Vote

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer on Sunday hailed Afghanistan's first-ever presidential election as an "impressive success" that put the country firmly on the road to democracy and stability.

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Fischer and Karzai in Kabul in April

"Yesterday's presidential elections went off peacefully as far as it was possible throughout the country. Voter turnout was according to the first results extraordinarily high," Fischer said in a statement. "In light of over 20 years of war, civil strife and violent rule in Afghanistan, this is an impressive success and a decisive step on the way to a secure, stable, free and democratic Afghanistan."

Fischer said the high voter turnout showed that a large majority of Afghans backed the political process that began in December 2001 at an international conference outside the former German capital Bonn after the fall of the radical Taliban regime.

He said this was all the more remarkable after repeated attempts by extremists in the run-up to the election to sabotage the poll with threats and attacks.

Fischer said the German government "respected" the decision Sunday by the Afghan election commission to continue with the poll Saturday despite opposition accusations of fraud and irregularities in the voting.

Counting of the votes is not expected to be completed until Oct. 30. Should no candidate win a majority a run-off election is schedule for Nov. 20.

Germany has contributed around 2,000 troops to the 9,000-strong NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and runs two reconstruction teams in the north of the country. It also provided financial assistance for the election.

"Germany will continue to stand by the Afghan people with its partners and vigorously support the process of rebuilding," Fischer said.

Schröder to visit Kabul Monday

Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who is on an Asian tour, is due to make a one-day visit to Kabul Monday.

Talking to business people in Islamabad, Pakistan on Sunday, Schröder said the poll had made him optimistic.

Gerhard Schröder zu Bundeswehr in Afghanistan

Gerhard Schröder

"The peaceful way elections took place and the high participation makes me optimistic even though there have been some problems," he said, according to Reuters news service. "I am convinced that if there have been misdoings or some mistakes with the election the United Nations and the international observers will find that out," he added.

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