Ban Ki-moon: Afghanistan a UN priority
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday declared Afghanistan a priority for the United Nations and pledged to do the utmost to support key presidential elections this year.?

Ban made a surprise visit to Kabul as the embattled country prepares for its second-ever presidential vote in August while facing an insurgency at its highest point since a US-led invasion ousted the Taliban regime in 2001.?

"For the United Nations, Afghanistan will be a priority in 2009," Ban told reporters at a news conference with President Hamid Karzai.?

"I am here to demonstrate and to convey my strong commitment and support for peace and stability, and development of Afghanistan's people," he said.?

The August 20 elections would be a challenge, Ban said. "But we will do our utmost to ensure that the Afghan Independent Electoral Commission, with the technical assistance from the United Nations, is adequately supported by donors," he said.?

The poll, expected to cost around USD 223 million, has been delayed for three months to allow time for adequate security and logistics over fears that insurgent violence could compromise the ballot.