Kabul: Afghanistan's president has agreed to reverse an earlier decision and allow two foreigners on a commission monitoring upcoming parliamentary elections, his spokesman said Saturday.
President Hamid Karzai's move comes amid pressure to avoid a repeat of last year's fraud-tainted presidential vote.
Last month, Karzai signed a decree allowing him to appoint all five members of the Electoral Complaints Commission in consultation with parliamentary leaders and the head of the Supreme Court. The body previously had three UN appointees.
The decree was criticized as a bid to control the body, which stripped Karzai of nearly one-third of his votes last year after complaints of ballot stuffing. Karzai was forced into a runoff but was declared the victor after his remaining challenger dropped out of the race.
On Saturday, Karzai spokesman Waheed Omar told reporters the president is now willing to accept some foreigners on the watchdog body because the country is in a "transitional phase" to democracy.
"The Afghan government has shown its readiness to accept two non-Afghans on the Electoral Complaints Commission and this has been announced to the United Nations," Omar said.
However, he said the monitoring body would still be controlled by Afghans, who would hold a majority vote.
Holding credible elections is considered key to establishing the legitimacy of the Afghan government, a key component of the new NATO strategy in the fight against Taliban insurgents who have gained ground since the 2001 US-led invasion that toppled their hard-line Islamist regime.
Government corruption is often cited as a major reason why many Afghans have turned to the Taliban.
First Published: Saturday, March 13, 2010, 18:44