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Karzai names new ministers for Afghanistan cabinet

Afghan MPs vote on the cabinet in Kabul on 2 January 2010
Parliament approved only seven of Mr Karzai's initial nominees

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has presented parliament with a 16-strong list of nominees for cabinet posts.

The list includes none of the 17 nominees parliament rejected last week.

Zalmay Rasul, Mr Karzai's security adviser, was named as the nominee for foreign minister, a post left vacant in the first round of voting.

Mr Karzai is hoping to finalise his cabinet before an international conference on Afghanistan in London later this month.

Second Vice-President Karim Khalili read out the list of 16 nominees to parliament.

"I request that all the lawmakers think about the national interest of the country, the current situation of the country and the desires of the Afghan people and make a good decision," said Mr Khalili.

Two of the 18 posts - that of the minister for communications and for water and energy - have been left vacant.

Mr Khalili said those posts would be announced soon, AP reported.

Three of the new nominees were women - the only woman on the first list was rejected.

The BBC's Mark Dummet says Mr Karzai has been under increasing pressure from his foreign backers to finalise the new cabinet and that it is seen to be efficient, corruption free and ready to tackle Afghanistan's many pressing problems.

Growing number of casualties have changed public opinion in the UK and US in particular, bringing many to question why their armies are backing a corrupt and disorganised government, says our correspondent.

Western officials have repeatedly emphasised that tackling corruption is key to stabilising the country, following Mr Karzai's controversial re-election last year.

Recess suspended

The more than 200 members of parliament will question each of the nominees, a process which is expected to take several days, before voting in a secret ballot.

President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, 8-12-09
Mr Karzai is facing international pressure to appoint ministers

The speaker of the house, Mohammad Younus Qanuni, told MPs: "If you work two shifts, morning and afternoon, we should be able to take a vote of confidence by Thursday," reported Reuters.

The vote is one of the few occasions when parliamentarians have genuine power to hold the executive to account, analysts say.

The list includes none of the 17 nominees who were rejected by parliament on 2 January.

Our correspondent says some had argued this was proof of a maturing democracy in Afghanistan, and an admirable attempt by the parliament to force Mr Karzai to bring new, competent people into government.

But the move effectively left Afghanistan without a fully functioning government, just weeks before the president is due to attend a donor conference in London on 28 January.

Only seven posts were approved from the first round, including Interior Minister Hanif Atmar and Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak, who was re-appointed.

Women's Affairs Minister Husn Bano Ghazanfar - the only woman in the cabinet - was among those who failed to win approval.

Energy minister nominee Ismail Khan - a Soviet-era guerrilla leader and anti-Taliban commander who was also energy minister in the last cabinet - was one of the most prominent nominees to be rejected.

On Monday, Mr Karzai ordered a six-week parliamentary recess to be suspended until the ministers were appointed.

The United Nations has said international funding for this year's parliamentary elections will depend on reform of the country's election institutions.

US President Barack Obama announced last month he would send 30,000 new US troops to Afghanistan, with a view to beating the Taliban.

Nato countries have followed up by pledging another 7,000 troops so far.

Mr Obama said he wanted to begin handing over to Afghan security forces by mid-2011.

Mr Karzai was returned for a second five-year term after last August's election, despite investigators discovering more than a quarter of votes were fraudulent.



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