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Localized fraud uncovered in Afghanistan's election

By wire services
Published October 3, 2005

KABUL, Afghanistan - Ballot boxes from hundreds of polling stations in Afghanistan's landmark parliamentary elections have been quarantined due to suspected vote fraud, but the overall credibility of the results was not in doubt, the chief electoral officer said Sunday.

Peter Erben said the joint U.N.-Afghan election body was reviewing the reported irregularities and will announce "tough action" later this week on whether to exclude ballot boxes from the vote count.

But Erben said the reports of fraud were localized and would not undermine the credibility of the Sept. 18 election, seen as a key step in Afghanistan's transition to democracy after two decades of war and civil strife.

In all, about 4 percent of ballot boxes have been quarantined.

About 6.8-million Afghans voted at more than 26,000 polling stations for new national and provincial assemblies. Final results are due Oct. 22.

Pacific storm weakens; Atlantic storm forms

SAN CARLOS, Mexico - Hurricane Otis, a Pacific storm, weakened to a tropical storm Sunday and headed north toward an unpopulated stretch of the Baja California peninsula, while an Atlantic tropical storm crossed the Yucatan peninsula.

No immediate reports of damage or injuries were received in connection with either Otis or Tropical Storm Stan, officials in the Mexican states of Baja California Sur and Quintana Roo said.

Tropical Storm Stan formed before dawn Sunday and made landfall about 40 miles southwest of the resort Tulum. The storm could re-emerge into the Gulf of Mexico by today, where it was projected to gather strength.

At 5 p.m. Sunday, Stan was moving inland across the Yucatan peninsula at about 12 mph with winds of about 40 mph.

It was centered near latitude 20.7 N and longitude 89.4 W, or about 50 miles south-southeast of Progreso.

Israeli, Palestinian leaders agree to meet; no date set

JERUSALEM - Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas agreed Sunday to hold their first summit since Israel's pullout from Gaza, officials from both sides said, and Israel suspended an offensive against Palestinian militants following a lull in rocket attacks against Israeli towns. Meanwhile, Hamas militants waged gunbattles with Palestinian police in Gaza City that killed three people and wounded at least 50, according to the Palestinian Interior Ministry.

[Last modified October 3, 2005, 01:16:11]

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