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Afghanistan: Loya Jirga Meets To Elect Head Of Government

Kabul, 11 June 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Afghanistan's Loya Jirga, the traditional assembly that is to select a transitional government, is set to open today after the former king renounced any role in the new government. The gathering of more than 1,500 delegates was due to start yesterday but was delayed by what Afghan officials said were "logistical" reasons. Correspondents say the delay may have been due to a disagreement over the role of the former king, Zahir Shah. But Shah -- who will inaugurate the Loya Jirga -- has said he does not want to restore the monarchy and has given his backing to the current interim leader, Hamid Karzai, in his bid to stay on as the head of state.

Choosing a head of government will be the first item on the agenda. Karzai is favored to be elected, having received endorsement from all the major groups. But some of the former king's supporters have threatened to boycott the proceedings.