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Some officials wondering whether Afghan elections should be delayed

KABUL - Five months before parliamentary elections in Afghanistan, donor nations are worried about another messy vote and some international officials are even discussing whether balloting should be delayed.

After years of encouraging democracy, some Western nations find themselves in the uncomfortable position of wondering whether another round of voting will do more harm than good in the violence-wracked country.

The parliamentary elections are due in May. Donor nations, including the United States and Britain, fear the vote could be a repeat of the August presidential election, which was rife with ballot-box stuffing and deadly violence, unless deep reforms are made to clean up the Afghan-run electoral process.

Another flawed vote would erode the credibility of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government at a time when he has pledged to battle corruption and improve services. Also, having to guard polling stations in May would be a distraction for the 30,000 U.S. reinforcements and thousands of foreign troops recently deployed to stall the Taliban's momentum and improve security.

Afghan officials will have the final say on whether to postpone the vote, but the international community holds the purse strings. Some Western diplomats are quietly hoping Afghan officials decide to delay the election, according to two international officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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