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Afghan president must tackle poverty as top priority

The failure to conclude a legitimate presidential election is the latest betrayal of the Afghan people who continue to suffer from poverty and the dire security situation, Christian Aid says.

The development agency welcomes the decision to call off a fresh round of voting to prevent further bloodshed and to bring to an end a process that was seen by the Afghan people as neither legitimate nor transparent.

'The international community and the Afghan government promised peace, stability and development to the Afghan people,' says Serena Di Matteo, Christian Aid’s Country Director for Afghanistan. 'But the reality is the people have been largely forgotten as the country’s political leaders have vied for power.

'Now Hamid Karzai has been confirmed as the country’s leader, his priority has to be to address the needs of his long-suffering people or he will never rebuild his badly-damaged credibility.

'If this shambles of an election has shown one thing, it is the need for the Afghan government to be more accountable to the people.'

Afghanistan remains one of the poorest nations outside of Africa and its people continue to suffer because of conflict, corruption and poverty. The uncertainty surrounding the election process has contributed to the precarious security situation.

'This election has resulted in a tarnished and weakened leader. From the perspective of the Afghan people, it has also resulted in a loss of credibility both for the electoral process and for the international community that backed the process,' says Di Matteo.

The Afghan Government should now work with increased vigour to end poverty and dismantle the opium trade and destroy networks of corruption, says Di Matteo.

The international community should explore new possibilities beyond military strategies. The government should talk with Taliban insurgents and armed force should be used only as a last resort to try to reduce civilian casualties.

Christian Aid has worked in Afghanistan for nearly three decades. It has given about £20 million to partners working in north, west and central Afghanistan since 2001.

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Notes to Editors:

1. Serena Di Matteo is available for interview. Please contact the press office on 020 7523 2460 or 07590 710942

2. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in nearly 50 countries. We act where the need is greatest, regardless of religion, helping people build the life they deserve.

3. Follow Christian Aid's newswire on Twitter: http://twitter.com/caid_newswire