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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 March 2006, 16:49 GMT
Afghan foreign minister loses job
Abdullah Abdullah
Dr Abdullah has held the post for years
Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah has been dropped in President Hamid Karzai's first reshuffle since parliamentary elections last autumn.

Dr Abdullah, a Tajik, is replaced by Dr Rangeen Dadfar Spanta, the president's former adviser on foreign affairs.

The cut-size cabinet has no seat for Dr Abdullah who led foreign policy before and after the Taleban in the 1990s.

The new cabinet contains 25 ministers, and all major ethnic groups have seats. Each minister must be approved by MPs.

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The list was confirmed within hours of the deadline set by the Afghan constitution after elections six months ago.

The BBC's Bilal Sarwary in Kabul says Dr Abdullah's replacement comes as a surprise - reports say he was offered several lesser posts but refused them.

The president... has appointed a new cabinet as well as members of the Supreme Court and presented it to the Wolesi Jirga for approval
Karzai office statement

Only one former warlord, Herat's Ismail Khan, keeps his seat in the cabinet, which our correspondent says retains a reasonable ethnic balance.

Just one women is represented in the cabinet - new women's affairs minister Dr Suraya Rahim Subrang.

She replaces Masooda Jalal, who stood against Mr Karzai in presidential elections in 2004. Two other cabinet rank women lose their seats.

Corruption

Afghanistan's new cabinet is the first in 30 years to be based on a parliamentary contest.

Merging smaller ministries means it has four fewer seats than the one composed of unelected ministers which the president picked when a parliamentary poll was delayed by security fears last year.

Zarar Ahmad Muqbal, acting interior minister since last September, is promoted to the post permanently.

Many ministers remain unchanged, including Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Economy Minister Amin Farhang.

Fazl Hadi Shinwari also stays chief justice and head of the Supreme Court.

Mr Karzai faced accusations in the past that certain key jobs were allocated to satisfy competing tribes and ethnic groups.

Observers say what Afghans hope the new cabinet can deliver is an end to ethnic infighting and corruption.




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