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NATO, EU Hail New Afghan Parliament --> Newly elected members of the People's Council being sworn in on 19 December (AFP) 19 December 2005 -- NATO and the European Union have hailed today's inaugural session of the Afghan parliament, the first meeting of an elected legislature in more than 30 years of war and conflict in Afghanistan.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer in a statement said the session today in Kabul of the National Assembly was "a visible sign that the democratic process is taking hold" in Afghanistan.

De Hoop Scheffer stressed that NATO peacekeepers will continue to play a "key role" in that respect as the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) expands its operations in the months ahead throughout the country.

The European Union meanwhile called the parliamentary session a "historic occasion."

Both NATO and the EU pledged to continue efforts to help Afghanistan meet its aspirations of peace, security, and democracy.

Landmark Session

The inauguration of the assembly was the culmination of a UN-backed plan to bring democracy drawn up after U.S.-led forces overthrew the former Taliban regime in 2001.

Former monarch Mohammad Zaher Shah addressed the inaugural session.

"After long years of war and misfortunes, the Afghan people are gathering once again," said Zaher Shah, whose ouster in 1973 by a cousin marked the start of three painful decades of Afghan history. "The inauguration of this national assembly is the determination and demand of the Afghan people. I want from you -- the representatives of the Afghan people -- unity, national solidarity, and the creation of a prosperous Afghanistan. Do your best." (Click here for a timeline of Afghan history.)

Lawmakers were sworn in by President Hamid Karzai, and the oath-taking ceremony was conducted in the country's official Dari and Pashto languages.

(compiled from RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan and wire reports)

Afghanistan Votes

RFE/RL's complete coverage of the historic September 18, 2005, legislative elections in Afghanistan.