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Afghan President Holds First Cabinet Meeting

Former Herat Governor and warlord Ismail Khan is Afghanistan's new water and power minister (file photo) 27 December 2004 -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai held his first cabinet meeting today in Kabul, at which he urged ministers to work together for the future of the country.

Karzai said that ministers should avoid involvement in party politics and should declare their personal assets so as to avoid corruption. He said the government must be transparent and accountable if it is to win the trust of the people.

At the same time, the president said he would support the creation of a political opposition, because it is in the interest of Afghanistan's fledgling democracy to have a proper opposition.

Karzai had announced the composition of his new, 27-minister cabinet ahead of a swearing-in ceremony on 24 December -- marking a further departure from the Transitional and Interim administrations that governed the country under his leadership for nearly three years.

Notable cabinet appointments include former central bank Governor Anwar ul-Haq Ahadi as finance minister, to be replaced at the Afghan National Bank by former adviser Nurullah Dilawari. Ousted Herat Governor and warlord Mohammad Ismail Khan was named water and power minister. Abdul Rahim Wardak replaced influential warlord and former mujahedin Mohammad Qasem Fahim as defense minister. Karzai left Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah in his post.

Karzai followed up with a presidential decree on 26 December to name two outgoing cabinet members as regional governors, a move many observers will likely interpret as an effort to salve their feelings as he seeks to curb the influence of warlords within the new government. Former Public Works Minister Gul Agha Sherzai was named governor of Kandahar Province in the south, while outgoing Agriculture Minister Sayyed Hossain Anwari was tabbed to govern Kabul Province.

Karzai said his priority goals are improving the economy, education, and security, and he said he will dispatch ministers to every province so that the people can get to know them.

Karzai became the country's first-ever directly elected president at a 7 December inauguration, nearly one month after he received 55 percent of the vote in an internationally backed, nationwide election.