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Afghanistan: Karzai Elected Leader By Loya Jirga

Kabul, 14 June 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Afghanistan's Loya Jirga traditional assembly has elected Hamid Karzai as Afghanistan's head of state. Karzai won 1,295 votes from a total of 1,575 ballots cast yesterday as the Loya Jirga met in Kabul for the third day. The two other candidates for the post came far behind.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan congratulated Karzai on his victory, calling the election an "important step towards peace and stability in Afghanistan." Annan called on Afghans to keep pursuing national reconciliation by peaceful means.

Karzai was chairman of the current Afghan interim administration installed six months ago. He will now lead a transitional administration that will run Afghanistan until national elections due in June 2004.

Delegates to the assembly will now attempt to shape the Transitional Authority, which will be governed by the transitional administration.

In other news, at least five people are dead following a bomb blast outside the U.S. consulate in the Pakistani city of Karachi.

The blast was caused by a bomb planted in a car parked outside the U.S. consulate in the city center. The Karachi police chief said the blast appeared to be the work of a suicide bomber.

The blast caused substantial damange to the consulate and a nearby hotel. Witnesses reported seeing body parts scattered about the scene.

Violence against foreigners by Islamic militants has increased since Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf threw his support behind the U.S.-led war on terrorism. A U.S. reporter was abducted in Karachi and killed, and there were two previous suicide bombings in Karachi this year.