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Translated from Pashto as 'grand council', the loya jirga is the first traditional assembly of its kind in Afghanistan for nearly 40 years.
More than 1,500 delegates drawn from the country's large number of ethnic, tribal and cultural groups will discuss the next stage in restoring democracy after 23 years of conflict.
Some Afghan groups do not agree with the process - viewing it as a rather rough and ready form of democracy. However many accept it as the closest attempt at achieving popular representation in what happens in the country.
See also: Q&A: What is a Loya Jirga
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