The head of the U.N. peacekeeping efforts has added to the international criticism of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s play to move national elections up to this spring.
Karzai issued an emergency decree over the weekend, ordering the country’s election commission to move up the vote from the Aug. 20 date set by the commission.
Karzai has said that the election date should adhere to the country’s constitution, which calls for a vote 30 to 60 days before a presidential term ends.
Karzai’s five-year term ends on May 22.
On Monday, the U.N. official, Alain Le Roy, said an election before July would be "almost impossible." He said the Aug. 20 date is "credible and reasonable."
Karzai’s opponents charge that he is trying to move the vote up for his own political gain: Parliamentary opponents have said they will no longer recognize him as president after May 22, even if the vote is to be held in August. They want an interim government to be appointed until a new president is elected.
Officials including the top U.S. and NATO military leaders in Afghanistan have said the security situation would not allow a vote before August.
Karzai has lost much of the influence and popularity with western governments he enjoyed early in his rule.
Officials have accused him of corruption and not doing enough for security, charges Karzai has denied.
Karzai, in turn, has increasingly put pressure on NATO to end civilian casualties and include the Afghan military more in planning and undertaking operations.