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Afghan President To Be Sworn In Next Week

Supporters of Afghan President Hamid Karzai dance in Herat following the declaration his election victory on November 2.
KABUL (Reuters) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai will be sworn in for a second term on November 19, an official said, after being returned to power despite a fraud-tainted poll in which more than a quarter of his votes were invalidated.

"On the 19th of November, we will have a swearing-in ceremony of the president and a commission, led by the minister of Defense, will lead this inauguration ceremony," Afghan Ministry of Defense spokesman General Zaher Azimy told reporters in Kabul.

Officials from several Afghan ministries would attend the ceremony, Azimy said, but he did not say whether any foreign dignitaries would be there.

A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Kabul would not say whether any U.S. officials would attend.

Karzai is expected to announce his new cabinet later this month but no firm date has been given.

Karzai was returned to power after election officials canceled a needless runoff vote that was to be held on November 7. A UN-backed probe had earlier invalidated tens of thousands of his votes from the August 20 ballot.

World leaders have since congratulated Karzai on his win, but the fraud-marred poll has hurt his reputation among Western countries that have nearly 110,000 troops defending his government from a growing Taliban insurgency.

U.S., European and U.N. officials have said Karzai must do more to tackle corruption and improve his government's performance in his next term. Kabul has complained about such remarks, describing them as inappropriate meddling.

In an interview with U.S. television at the weekend, Karzai said the practices of Western countries -- which spend billions of dollars in Afghanistan mainly through private contractors -- were partly to blame for corruption in Afghanistan.