The 18 September parliamentary vote was a "daunting task" and one of the "most logistically challenging elections ever held", Peter Erben, head of the joint UN-Afghan Electoral Management Body, said in Kabul.

The vote would be 10 times the size of last October's presidential poll and five times as complex with "some ballots ... resembling a newspaper tabloid" and stretching to seven pages, logistics head James Grierson said.

But despite security risks which have left some districts off-limits to Afghan security forces, freak sandstorms, flash-floods and high-altitude polling stations, preparations were on track, he added.

Grierson said that more than 24 camels and 1200 donkeys would be used to get ballots and boxes out to the most remote areas of Afghanistan, where roads have been bombed into the Stone Age by a quarter-century of war.

Poor, remote areas

Some districts were so poor and remote there are no buildings to use as polling stations, so 134 tents will be set up on election day.

Erben said electoral officials had "completely changed the way we are using ink", in order to avoid fraud allegations which marred the presidential election when some supposedly permanent ink used to mark voters' fingers washed off easily.

Voting will be secret and ballot boxes will be sealed with metal locks and travel with election observers to 32 counting centres, where observers can make sure there is no fraud involved, Grierson added.