24 Jul 2009

TV election debate goes ahead without president

12:57 pm on 24 July 2009

The first televised debate between candidates for the presidency has been broadcast in Afghanistan - without the leading candidate.

The incumbent, Hamid Karzai, declined to take part.

The BBC reports he pulled out of the debate which was aired on the private television channel Tolo after advisers told him it would be biased against him.

Mr Karzai is one of 41 candidates contesting the election - the first since 2004.

Correspondents say not many people in Afghanistan have television anyway.

The poll is due to be held amid tight security on 20 August. Under the constitution, the vote should have been held in May, but a deterioration in the security situation prompted a postponement until August.