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Karzai Orders Afghan Parliament To Suspend Break

Afghan lawmakers reject Karzai's cabinet picks in a vote on January 2.
KABUL (Reuters) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai has ordered parliament to suspend a winter break so that it can vet and vote on new cabinet nominees after lawmakers rejected over two thirds of his original candidates.

Parliament dealt Karzai a painful blow on January 2 when it rejected 17 out of 24 of his nominees casting Afghanistan into further political array after a UN-backed probe threw out nearly one-third of his votes in a presidential poll in August.

If Karzai fails to have his cabinet approved in the next few weeks, he will have to head to a London conference later this month seeking extra funds from Western donors without being able to say who will control a significant chunk of them.

Parliament was due to start a six-week winter break later this week, which would have made it almost impossible for Karzai to assemble a full government in less than two months.

"Afghan President Hamid Karzai has issued a decree to parliament to refrain from going on winter leave to complete the process of voting for new cabinet members," his palace said in a statement.

Karzai ordered the decree based on Article 107 of the Afghan Constitution, which allows the president to convene "extraordinary sessions of parliament during recess," the palace said. The new cabinet will be presented for a vote of confidence "in several days," it said.

Mohammad Karim Baaz, a deputy minister for parliamentary affairs, told Reuters, the new list would most likely be presented to the lower house on January 10.

Some of Karzai's nominations rejected by parliament would be included in the new list but with new portfolios, Baaz said, adding there will be new faces too. He gave no further details.

The rejected nominees included several key allies of Karzai.