Briefing reporters in Kabul on Sunday, UNAMA spokesman Edward Carwardine put the total at 3,591,572 Afghans, including 1,253,605 women. A month ago, UNAMA said women made up about 30 per cent of the 2 million voters who had signed up at 400 registration sites. Meanwhile, the Afghan Ministry of Justice has approved 21 political parties out of the 50 seeking recognition, Mr. Carwardine said. The parties next must apply to the Joint Electoral Management Body for accreditation. That Board is also mandated to decide on the date of the election. In another development, UNAMA chief Jean Arnault on Saturday began an official visit to Iran, where he met with President Mohammed Khatami and senior government officials. Their talks touched on Iran’s aid to and trade with Afghanistan and the fight against illegal narcotics, Mr. Carwardine said. The Tehran authorities re-affirmed their support for the Bonn Agreement, which was brokered by the UN in December 2001 and set the blueprint for Afghanistan’s political transition.

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