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More Than Half Of Karzai's Cabinet Now Approved


The Afghan parliament has rejected a majority of cabinet candidates up for confirmation today, approving just seven of 17 nominees on President Hamid Karzai's revised list.

But with seven ministers already approved earlier this month, Karzai has now managed to fill 14 of the 24 ministerial posts in his new cabinet -- including the powerful interior, defense, foreign, finance, justice, and religious affairs ministers.

Today's vote is the second time that the lower house of parliament has rejected a majority of nominees suggested by Karzai for his cabinet since he was reelected president in August.

The rejection of today's revised list means Karzai will have to go back to the drawing board a third time and is likely to go to a major London conference about Afghanistan on January 28 without a complete cabinet.

In a statement after the vote, Karzai said he had taken into consideration the abilities and professionalism of all of his nominees, as well as their "national participation."

He said he regrets that "a desirable result was not achieved." But he said he respects the decision by the parliament based on Afghanistan's constitution.

Appointments confirmed today include Foreign Minister Zalmai Rasul, Justice Minister Habibullah Ghaleb, and Head of Religious Affairs Mohammad Yusef Neyazi.

The parliament today also confirmed the appointment of the leader of the Hezb-i Islami faction in Kabul, Abdulhadi Arghandiwal, to the post of economy minister.

Jarullah Mansuri has been approved as the new rural development minister.

Zaraar Ahmad Moqbel was confirmed today as Afghanistan's new antinarcotics minister. Moqbel had been Afghanistan's interior minister in 2008 and early 2009 but was removed from that post by Karzai under pressure from the UN special representative in Afghanistan, Kai Eide.

Key Ministers Confirmed

Of three women who had been nominated by Karzai for ministerial posts, the parliament approved only one candidate -- Amina Afzali. She was confirmed as labor and social affairs minister.

Candidates approved earlier included Karzai's choices to head the ministries of Defense, Finance, Interior, Agriculture, and Culture.

Lawmakers have complained that some of Karzai's nominees lack the credentials to serve in the cabinet. Others objected that some nominees were too closely aligned with warlords, or were nominated to pay back political supporters who helped get the president reelected.

Fowzai Kofi, a female member of the Afghan parliament's lower house, said that the current list "is much weaker than the previous one."

She said that the "coalition which has surrounded the president...are accused of human rights violations," war crimes, and being drug lords.

Key nominees rejected by the legislature today included Mohammad Hashim Esmatullahi, Karzai's choice to lead the Higher Education Ministry.

Karzai has yet to nominate a candidate for the Energy and Water Ministry after his attempt to retain Ismail Khan, a former anti-Taliban guerilla leader from the western Afghan province of Herat, was denied by parliament earlier this month.

RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan contributed to this report from Prague and Kabul
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