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Afghan conference call from Europe -

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ELEANOR HALL: The leaders of Germany, the UK and France are calling for an international conference
on the future of Afghanistan to be held before the end of this year.

After a meeting in Berlin, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and the British Prime Minister Gordon
Brown said the aim of the conference would be to encourage the Afghan Government to take on more
responsibility for the country.

But as the vote count from last month's presidential election continues, investigations into fraud
allegations have forced the results from almost 450 polling booths to be annulled.

Barbara Miller has our report.

BARBARA MILLER: Matters financial were expected to dominate the meeting in Berlin between Angela
Merkel and Gordon Brown but in the end concerns about Afghanistan took precedence.

In the two-and-a-half weeks since the country's presidential election, more than 2,000 complaints
of fraud or irregularities have been lodged. Now results from 447 polling booths will be annulled.

Daoud Ali Najafi is the chief electoral officer for the Independent Election Commission.

DAOUD ALI NAJAFI (translated): We had sufficient evidence of fraud in some polling stations. We
have annulled the results of those polling stations. This evidence was provided for us based on the
investigations of our team on the ground.

BARBARA MILLER: Democracy International has had a team of election monitors based in Afghanistan
since July. The organisation's Afghanistan director David Avery says the decision to annul some
votes is a potentially positive sign.

DAVID AVERY: This annulment actually is evidence that the Election Commission is looking at results
and is acting, to some degree, when it sees a problem. Now we still however have 25 per cent of the
polling stations with a view of the results published so I think it is a little bit too early to
bestow any sort of verdict on the election at all.

BARBARA MILLER: With vote counting continuing, Afghanistan's current president Hamid Karzai is
edging very close to the 50 per cent he'd need to avoid a run-off. But even if he is declared the
winner, serious doubts will remain about the validity of the poll, given the concerns about fraud,
and the fact that only one quarter of eligible voters participated in the election.

Against that backdrop and ongoing domestic concerns about the financial and human cost of the war
in Afghanistan, key European leaders have announced it's time for the Afghan Government and people
to take on more responsibility. The call comes as the top US commander in Afghanistan Stanley
McChrystal prepares to deliver a key policy assessment of the war.

Angela Merkel and Gordon Brown made the announcement after their meeting in Berlin.

GORDON BROWN: We both support a conference which would bring together the next Afghan Government,
the United Nations, NATO and all key contributing countries to look ahead at the next phase of our
mission and to look ahead at it in these three areas; security, governance and development and to
see how the Afghan population itself, its army, its police force and its civic institutions can
play a bigger role in the future and to ensure that our strategy is properly supported by the
resources that are needed to deliver it.

BARBARA MILLER: Angela Merkel said the conference initiative was also supported by the French
President Nicolas Sarkozy.

She also commented on a controversial raid ordered by a German commander in Kunduz province on
Friday. The commander called in the airstrike after Taliban fighters hijacked two fuel tankers
close to a German base. Estimates of exactly how many people were killed vary from about 50 to 125,
but civilians are thought to be among the dead.

Ms Merkel stressed that the matter would be thoroughly investigated:

ANGELA MERKEL (translated): Regarding the Kunduz incident I would firstly like to clarify that the
German Government and I personally want to see a NATO investigative team swiftly put together that
will carry out a thorough and quick explanation of what took place and whether there were civilians
killed. If there have been civilians among the victims I will, of course, deeply regret this.

You know that our whole strategy is designed to reach confidence among the Afghan population.

BARBARA MILLER: Germany's opposition parties say that's not enough. The Greens say the Chancellor
needs to ensure that Germany's reputation is not further damaged by the handling of the incident.
And the Left Party is calling for a criminal investigation against the commander who ordered the
strike.

All this just three weeks away from a German general election and with strategists warning that the
Taliban could deliberately target German troops in the run-up to try and also influence that
election result.

ELEANOR HALL: Barbara Miller reporting.