In a statement issued here on Wednesday, the Council members commended the participation and courage of Afghans, including women, in the electoral process, in spite of threats and intimidation by the Taliban and other violent extremist and terrorist groups.

"The Security Council condemns the actions of those who attempted to disrupt the elections, such as terrorist attacks against civilians, including election personnel and candidates, as well as attacks against election infrastructure," Xinhua quoted the statement as saying, which also slammed violent and terrorist activities by the Taliban, Al Qaeda and other violent and extremist groups.

While it does not specifically mention the current electoral impasse or the candidates, the statement emphasised that "all efforts must be made to ensure the integrity, neutrality and transparency of the electoral process, including the detection and prevention of fraud".

Afghanistan's elections were thrown into turmoil last week when presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah said the Independent Election Commission (IEC) was guilty of fraud and he considered its handling of the electoral process illegitimate. Protests were sparked off in the wake of the objection made by Abdullah.

The Afghan election commission said preliminary results of the June 14 presidential runoff between Abdullah and ex-World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai will be announced July 2 and the final results July 22.

Urging electoral institutions to demonstrate the highest standards of integrity, the Security Council called on all stakeholders to show respect with regard to electoral processes and institutions, to direct their complaints through established institutional mechanisms in keeping with Afghan laws and to refrain from acts that could lead to instability and violence.

(Agencies)

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