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Saturday, 22 December, 2001, 10:20 GMT
Karzai takes power in Kabul
Hamid Karzai (right) and outgoing President Burhanuddin Rabbani
Power is transferred with a handshake
Hamid Karzai has been sworn in as Afghanistan's new leader at an emotionally-charged ceremony in Kabul.

In the first peaceful transfer of power in Afghanistan for decades, Mr Karzai embraced former president Burhanuddin Rabbani and called on Afghans to "forget the painful past".

This agreement, although far from perfect, has been warmly welcomed by the people of Afghanistan and by all the countries of the world

UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi

In a speech punctuated by applause and shouts of support, Mr Karzai called for international help in re-building his war-ravaged country and promised to work hard for unity and peace.

The new government is to run Afghanistan for the next six months - the first stage in a process which should culminate in elections within two and a half years.

Mr Karzai, 44, said his administration would respect all Islamic rules, the freedom of speech and the rights of women. He also stressed the need to rebuild Afghanistan's education system, severely damaged under the country's former Taleban rulers.

"We should put our hands together to forget the painful past. As brothers and sisters, we should go forward to a new Afghanistan together.

"Our country has had destruction in all aspects of life. We need a new beginning and hard work from all Afghans," he said.

'Momentous day'

Mr Karzai identified the government's most important duty to be ensuring security and peace, and stressed that Afghanistan was again a full member of the international community, now that the Taleban had been ousted.

He then swore in the 29 members of his new cabinet, on what the UN's chief representative called "a momentous day".

Lakhdar Brahimi, who brokered the new government's make-up at talks in Bonn, said Afghanistan had suffered too long.

Click here for a who's who of the Afghan power brokers.

"Each and every Afghan has been touched by this tragedy and has grown tired of war. People have now put their faith in this interim administration, and this faith must be rewarded," he said.

He said the ceremony, attended by representatives from every province in the country, marked the end of a "long dark night of conflict and strife".

Hamid Karzai
Hamid Karzai is promising to work for peace
"This agreement, although far from perfect, has been warmly welcomed by the people of Afghanistan and by all the countries of the world," he said.

Mr Karzai, wearing a traditional lambskin hat, spoke in his native Pashtun. But he took care to read a poem in Dari, the country's other main language.

Jobs in the new government have been deliberately divided among Afghanistan's ethnic groups. But some Pashtun leaders are angry because a majority of posts have gone to the Tajik-dominated Northern Alliance.

Image of Masood

In a sign of Northern Alliance influence, a huge portrait of its assassinated leader Ahmed Shah Masood hung behind the assembled leaders, and each mention of his name during the ceremony was greeted by cries of respect.

Ahmed Shah Masood's face overseeing the ceremony
A picture of Masood dominated the ceremony
About 2,000 Afghan leaders and foreign diplomats attended the inauguration, held in the Interior Ministry building.

Security was tight, with armed soldiers and police patrolling in the grounds of the ministry, accompanied by a small contingent of Royal Marines who are the vanguard for the British-led international security force.

Challenges ahead

Key tasks for the new government include establishing security throughout the country, restoring essential services and beginning the process of reconstruction.

Since the collapse of the Taleban, there have been reports of increasing numbers of armed men on the streets in some cities and of pockets of looting and lawlessness.

Three men who security officials described as Taleban fighters were arrested inside the Interior Ministry compound on Saturday morning.

The BBC's Caroline Wyatt
"They have just six months to make it work"
The BBC's Richard Miron
"Its main task is to ensure stability"
United Nations envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi
"Each and every Afghan has grown tired of war"
Baqer Moin of the BBC's Persian and Pashto Service
"Hamid Karzai wants to push Afghanistan towards the modern era"
See also:

05 Dec 01 | South Asia
Guide to Afghan deal
21 Dec 01 | South Asia
US says warplanes hit Taleban convoy
22 Dec 01 | South Asia
US denies killing Afghan elders
21 Dec 01 | South Asia
Afghanistan hopes for global aid
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