Page last updated at 08:51 GMT, Saturday, 19 December 2009

Afghanistan leader Karzai presents cabinet nominees

Hamid Karzai. File pic
Hamid Karzai is under intense Western scrutiny

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has presented his cabinet nominees to parliament, amid close Western scrutiny on the need to tackle corruption.

The list was read to a packed parliament amid boisterous scenes.

The BBC's Peter Greste in Kabul says Western powers will be largely satisfied - two ministers accused of corruption have lost their jobs.

Mr Karzai was last month declared the winner of the presidential election after a poll process marred by fraud.

Balancing act

Hamid Karzai was not in parliament as the list of 23 nominees was read out by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Anwar Jigdalak.

"You esteemed delegates of the people are asked to take another positive step by giving a vote of confidence to the above mentioned nominees," Mr Jigdalak said.

Foreign Minister Rangin Spanta
Foreign Minister Rangin Spanta is a surprise departure

Our correspondent says most of the key ministers with solid reputations have held on to their jobs.

The interior, finance and defence ministries remain unchanged.

Two politicians accused of pocketing large sums of donor money - the ministers of mines and the Hajj - have both gone.

One surprise change is that Foreign Minister Rangin Spanta has lost his job, although no replacement has been announced.

Mr Spanta will stay on for a key conference on Afghanistan in London in January. No reason was given for his departure.

One appointment likely to draw criticism is Ismail Khan - a former warlord from the western province of Herat who has been accused of human rights abuses and corruption.

He retains his post as minister of water and energy.

The only female nominee is for women's affairs.

Our correspondent says President Karzai faced a difficult task in naming his new cabinet, balancing intense pressure to deal with corruption with a need to repay favours to those who helped get him re-elected.

Widespread fraud in the 20 August first round of elections led to Mr Karzai being stripped of the outright win he appeared to have secured.

A second round run-off scheduled for 7 November was called off after Mr Karzai's sole remaining challenger, Dr Abdullah Abdullah, pulled out saying the vote could not be free and fair.

US-led Western powers recently announced a big surge in international forces for the country and have also pledged billions of dollars of aid.

They see the cabinet posts as vital in working towards the stated goal of Afghan forces taking full control of security within five years.

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