Afghanistan Still Awaits $19M in Pledges

Organizers of Afghanistan's Sept. 18 parliamentary elections are still short $19 million despite fresh pledges from international donors prompted by warnings that a lack of funds could endanger the ballot, a U.N. spokeswoman said Monday.

The new money — $8 million from the United States and $4 million from other nations — came after the United Nations (search) said last week that the $149 million election budget was short $31 million because donors had failed to deliver on previous pledges.

Denmark, Norway and New Zealand also promised funds, said Ariane Quentier, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (search), adding that U.N. officials hoped the donations will "encourage other donors to make contributions and fill them without delay."

It was unclear how much the three nations pledged individually.

Officials have warned that violence by insurgents, particularly in southern and eastern provinces, could intensify ahead of next month's election, which is considered an important step in establishing democracy in Afghanistan after decades of war.

More than 900 people have been killed since March in a wave of attacks led mainly by suspected Taliban (search) rebels, whose hardline regime was toppled by U.S.-led forces in late 2001.

The U.S. Embassy said its new donation would supplement $32 million already given for the election, which is being organized by Afghan authorities and the United Nations.

The U.S. funds will be channeled through the United Nations and "used for public education, ballot production and transportation, recruitment and training of polling center workers and other election-related activities," the embassy said in a statement.