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Kabul Prepares For Start Of Three-Day 'Peace Jirga'


A billboard in Kabul advertises the forthcoming "peace jirga."

A billboard in Kabul advertises the forthcoming "peace jirga."

Final preparations are under way in Kabul for a "peace jirga" that starts on June 2, a consultative council in which some 1,600 lawmakers and local leaders are gathering from across the country.

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai called for the three-day meeting in search of a national consensus on how to end nearly nine years of war -- ultimately allowing U.S. and NATO-led international forces to leave the country.

The peace jirga is the third nationwide gathering of delegates from Afghanistan's complex mix of ethnic, tribal, religious, geographic, and gender interests since the Taliban regime was toppled in 2001.

But the country's most prominent opposition leader, Abdullah Abdullah, says he and his supporters will not participate in the conference.

Abdullah, the former foreign minister in Karzai's transitional government, is questioning the legitimacy of the peace jirga. He told a press conference in Kabul today that he is not boycotting the jirga "but we will not participate in it."

Organizers say Taliban leaders will not be turned away but have not been formally invited.

The militants say they will not be involved in peace talks until all foreign troops leave Afghanistan.

Unlike two earlier "loya jirgas" -- grand councils whose binding votes confirmed the post-Taliban constitution and Karzai as transitional leader -- any vote made during this week's gathering will be only for advisory purposes.

compiled from agency reports
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