Last 24 Hours: Afghanistan to polls Saturday

Afghanistan’s national presidential elections are set to take place Saturday 5 April. It is the first power transfer from one to another by democratic means since the Taliban took the country after the September 11th attacks in America.

Even if the Taliban fail to hobble the Afghan presidential election on Saturday, it could take months for a winner to be declared at a time when the country desperately needs a leader to stem rising violence as foreign troops prepare to leave.

Most people expect the election will be better run than the chaotic 2009 vote that handed President Hamid Karzai a second term amid massive fraud and ballot stuffing. And, despite a crescendo of attacks by the Islamist militant Taliban group in recent weeks, millions of Afghans are eager for a say in their country’s future.

The chief risk is that it might take many months – perhaps until October – for Karzai’s replacement to be confirmed, especially if a run-off round has to be held.

Massive and sweeping security is reported in Afghanistan’s Kandahar, ahead of Saturday’s election poll.

Accept it and move on, Russia says to the United States on the Crimea annexation.

Libya’s government sees “good intentions” in oil port talks with rebels after months of rebel control over the ports. Rebel splits are seen as brewing after senior members of the Libyan port rebels quit the leadership team.

Anti-Assad allies rebuff Syria’s upcoming presidential election plan, saying it is a “parody of democracy.”

Should know

Central African Republic; Chad soldiers kill 30, wound more than 300 in Bangui attack – Bahrain; Police, protesters clash after Shiite funeral, witnesses say – Russia; Four servicemen killed in North Caucasus bomb attack  – Iraq; Militants attack Iraq army battalion headquarters near Baghdad capital

Thailand; Supporters of prime minister Yingluck plan for weekend Bangkok rally, rule out violence – Taliban; Pakistan Taliban extends ceasefire for 10 days after prisoner release –Koreas; South Korea extending ballistic missile range to counter North Korea’s threat – Turkey; Turkey lifts Twitter ban after court ruling

Pakistan; Abducted Iranian border guard freed by al-Qaida linked militants in Pakistan, lawmaker says – Lebanon; Lebanon cracks down on alleged Syria-linked al-Qaida militants – Darfur; United Nations demands better peacekeeping role in Sudan region

United States; Senate panel votes to declassify report on CIA interrogations – Surveillance; Obama’s overhaul of NSA may require phone companies to hold more data – U.S./Africa; United States sending 175 Marines to Romania as part of Africa crisis team

To know

MidEast talks; U.S. Secretary of State Kerry warns the U.S. is reviewing role in Middle East peace talks – South China Sea; U.S. warns China to not try Crimea-style action in Asia, Philippines to exercise self restraint in disputed seas

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