Page last updated at 15:39 GMT, Sunday, 17 January 2010

Afghan cabinet vote delayed

Afghan MPs vote on the cabinet in Kabul on 2 January 2010
Parliament has twice rejected Mr Karzai's nominations

The Afghan parliament is to begin its winter recess without waiting for President Karzai to fill vacancies in nearly half of his cabinet.

MPs will leave on Monday for a recess lasting until 20 February.

The delay will further delay Afghanistan's months of political uncertainty since contested elections.

It will also mean that President Karzai will appear at the London Conference on Afghanistan later this month with 11 of his 25 cabinet seats still vacant.

Parliament has twice rejected many of Mr Karzai's nominations for a new cabinet, forcing the president to direct deputy ministers or other caretaker figures to run their ministries.

"We'll introduce new members after they come back from their recess," the president's spokesman, Waheed Omar, told reporters.

Members have voted to cut their winter recess to 33 days from the original 45 because they must debate the national budget as well as consider the new cabinet nominees, MP Shukria Barakzai said.

Mr Karzai's lists have raised eyebrows for including names linked to warlords and known human rights abusers.

There is speculation that the president is failing to name competent ministers but instead favouring regional bosses who helped him in the fraud-marred election.

Confirming the cabinet is the first big test for Mr Karzai since his re-election last August.

His return to power in a vote marred by fraud has damaged his standing at home and abroad.

And another parliamentary election looms, due to be held on 22 May this year, according to the president's spokesman.

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