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Tuesday, 18 June, 2002, 14:16 GMT 15:16 UK
US intervenes on Afghan cabinet
Women delegates watch Hamid Karzai's speech
Some delegates were angered by the lack of progress
The US special envoy to Afghanistan has backed the right of the loya jirga or grand assembly to have the final say on key cabinet posts.

Karzai has to propose the state structure and the key personnel to the loya jirga and get its approval

Zalmay Khalilzad,
US envoy
Zalmay Khalilzad said this was a requirement under last year's Bonn agreement, and the international community would insist on it.

"Whoever said the approval of the loya jirga is not needed has spoken mistakenly. On that, we are perfectly clear," he told reporters outside the assembly meeting.

The newly-confirmed head of state, Hamid Karzai, has now asked for an extra day in which to put his nominees to the assembly.

"If you want a good cabinet, then give me one day more. I will produce a cabinet acceptable to everyone," Mr Karzai told delegates.

Heated debate

Mr Karzai had earlier delayed announcing his cabinet following a heated morning session in which delegates argued about a proposal for a new parliament.

The loya jirga chairman, Mohammed Qasimyar, appealed to delegates not to get "too emotional".

The loya jirga is here, but the decisions are being taken somewhere else

Female delegate Rahima

Many people walked out, and one man said he had more useful business at home.

There were angry complaints that the chairman was time-wasting.

Then speakers started to again raise the issue of setting up the Afghan parliament.

Mr Qasimyar said they would discuss a plan to select a 45-member committee to choose the parliament.

But after opposition was voiced, he proposed a second plan under which the parliament would consist of two representatives from each province and one for every 20 delegates at the loya jirga itself.

Then the session was adjourned with the chairman telling delegates to go and choose representatives from among themselves - two per province, with the weighting towards more heavily populated areas.

Cabinet posts

The issue of the new cabinet is also unresolved, with many delegates concerned about the dominant role of Tajiks from the Northern Alliance.

Loya jirga delegates
There have been some heated exchanges

Government officials have said cabinet posts would be announced to the loya jirga, but not submitted for approval.

The BBC's Ian MacWilliam in Kabul says part of the problem is that the Bonn agreement, under which the interim administration was set up, was kept deliberately vague about forming a government.

It refers only to the loya jirga approving the "key personnel" in a new government - without defining who those personnel are.

This was to allow room for manoeuvre for the many factions that had to be included.

The assembly, convened to decide the post-war future of Afghanistan, has been meeting for eight days.

It had been scheduled to conclude on Sunday.

The BBC's Lyse Doucet reports from Kabul
"There's a great deal of pressure on Mr Karzai"


Political uncertainty






See also:

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