Afghanistan was due to hold democratic elections in June 2004 under the Bonn peace accords drawn up in late 2001 following the fall of the Taliban. But that date was no longer considered viable given slow registration of voters and security worries.

"The joint election commission with UNAMA (United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan) came to me and informed me that they can hold presidential and parliamentary elections both at the same time," Karzai told a press briefing in Kabul on Sunday.

"And that will happen late Sunbola or early Mizan," he said naming the portion of the Afghan calendar which translates as early September.

Karzai acknowledged that Afghanistan had experienced serious factional fighting in the past week, during which Aviation Minister Mirwais Sadiq was killed in the western city of Herat.

Afghanistan is appealing for
funding in a conference this week

Progress being made

But he said electoral officials had assured him that progress was being made in organising the polls.

"Although in the past week ... we had these sad incidents in Herat, the martyrdom of our minister and the loss of our youths (soldiers), fortunately we also had successes," Karzai said, citing the ongoing preparations for the elections.

News of the postponement came as Afghanistan prepared to ask the international community for further pledges of aid at a conference to take place in Berlin this week.

The timing and conduct of the Afghan election is important as analysts believe US President George Bush is looking to the polls for a foreign policy success story ahead of his own
re-election bid in November.    

Security worries were heightened by recent fighting between pro-government forces in the western city of Herat, until then considered one of the most peaceful parts of the country.

The Taliban, driven from power by US-led forces in 2001, has already threatened to disrupt the polls and more than 600 people have been killed in violence in the south and east of the country since last August.