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Afghanistan: Karzai Asks For One Day More To Name His Cabinet

The president of Afghanistan's Transitional Authority, Hamid Karzai, told the Loya Jirga today that he will present his cabinet to the assembly tomorrow. As RFE/RL reports, the presentation of the cabinet is likely to be the last important act for a national assembly that looks set to end this week with little accomplished other than the endorsement of Karzai as the country's leader.

Kabul, 18 June 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan's Transitional Authority, asked the Loya Jirga for an additional 24 hours to form his cabinet before he presents it to the assembly.

Addressing the Loya Jirga today, he said the cabinet was almost complete but that additional negotiations are needed. "I am asking you to give me one more day. Regarding the cabinet, almost everything is ready and only some consultations are needed because this is an important national issue and, God willing, I will be here tomorrow at 5 p.m. talking to you," Karzai said.

The announcement came amid reports that the cabinet selection is proving extremely difficult. Karzai is expected to present the final list to the Loya Jirga but not to seek to the assembly's approval of the nominees.

One reason the Loya Jirga is unlikely to receive the names for approval is its inability to form a parliamentary council that was originally planned to serve that function. Another reason is Karzai's reported reluctance to put his cabinet names to any approval process that might complicate his selections further.

The presentation of the names tomorrow is widely seen as the last act for the Loya Jirga, which is showing signs of exhaustion today after more than a week of marathon morning-to-night sessions. For days, delegates have wrestled unsuccessfully with what has proven to be the thorniest issue of the national convention, i.e., how to elect a parliamentary council that could serve as a legislative branch for the new Transitional Authority that is to take office on 22 June 22.

It remains unclear whether the planned council would have legislative or merely consultative powers. Karzai has said he hopes the council will sit for 18 months and be a means of assuring the government meets the people's expectations.

But the process of creating a parliamentary council has been dogged by so many difficulties that it now appears the most the delegates will do is form a committee to discuss the issue after the Loya Jirga adjourns. The Loya Jirga is widely expected to end tomorrow or soon after.

Today, the Loya Jirga spent hours discussing the need to form a committee that would resolve how to elect representatives to the council and what the council's functions would be. It was unclear whether any vote for representatives to the committee will take place this evening.

The delegates downscaled their goals from forming a parliamentary council to merely forming a committee to discuss it after Karzai stepped in yesterday to tell them they were running out of time to do anything else.

Many observers have taken the Loya Jirga's inability to form the council as a sign the assembly will conclude soon with little to show for its work other than the endorsement of Karzai as the country's leader.

The failure to form the council makes it almost certain the Loya Jirga will be unable to exercise its rights fully under the Bonn accord to endorse key personnel of the Transitional Authority.

Many delegates had hoped Karzai would propose the key members of his team to the planned council. Much speculation had centered on whether the Loya Jirga would define the term "key personnel" to include ministers, giving the delegates a veto power over Karzai's nominees.

One delegate today told the Loya Jirga that its work will be incomplete if a parliamentary council is not formed. "Still, we don't have any national-level parliament. There has to be an efficient and strong parliament and it should be formed by the representatives of the people. Because if there is no parliament, then the government will impose whatever it wants on us."

He also said that if the delegates break up without forming a parliament, people will blame them if the new government proves disappointing. "I hope the Loya Jirga will not allow itself to deteriorate [into inaction] due to interferences and problems. We should create a government in which both the representatives of the people and officials reach agreements among themselves so that no one can blame someone else in the future."

As the Loya Jirga has become hamstrung, the delegates have increasingly seen their chance diminish to have a significant role in shaping the next government. Instead, the Loya Jirga's early endorsement of Karzai has put the power to form the new government in his hands and since then it has remained there exclusively.

Delegate Fatima Gailani described some of the delegates' ambivalence about this situation to reporters yesterday. Gailani, the daughter of a royalist tribal leader from eastern Afghanistan, said, "Everybody loves Mr. Karzai, but there is such fear about who will be in his cabinet."

As the Loya Jirga wraps up, there is a danger that many delegates will go home feeling the cabinet's makeup was decided only by the country's most powerful figures.