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Friday, 14 June, 2002, 21:11 GMT 22:11 UK
Karzai sets out Afghanistan vision
Loya jirga delegates
The cabinet is the subject of intense debate
Afghanistan's newly elected leader, Hamid Karzai, has pledged to bring peace and security to the ravaged country in his role as head of state.

The objective is to take Afghanistan out of this quagmire in which it was

Hamid Karzai
In an acceptance speech to Afghanistan's grand assembly - or loya jirga - he said he would work "modestly and tirelessly" to bring help to the Afghan people.

He also warned he would be pursuing international donors who had promised money to rebuild Afghanistan, but had not paid up yet.

Later, Mr Karzai is expected to put forward nominations for cabinet posts - an important indication of the influence different ethnic and militant factions will hold in the future government.

Delegates at the loya jirga have also been discussing the role of Islam in the future government.

Religious debate

Mr Karzai told the BBC in reply to a question about tackling warlords: "We must first have peace, stabilise peace, make it certain, make it stand on its own feet and then go for justice. But if we can have justice while we are seeking peace we'll go for that too.

"So... justice becomes a luxury for now. We must not lose peace for that."

In his first term, when he was criticised for not being tough enough, Mr Karzai said he "had to make way through difficulties."

He said he would tackle difficulties "in a manner that would make Afghanistan a better place for all. No revenge taken, correction made, yes."

Hamid Karzai
Karzai said he did not want Afghanistan to be a banana republic

Delegates have asked him to tackle health and education as well as the grinding poverty which affects many Afghans.

"You and your family should eat nothing but bread one day a week so you can understand how the people are suffering," said the Shia religious leader Afef Mohhemi.

Heated debate broke out over the role Islam should have within the new administration, which will run Afghanistan until elections in two years' time.

"As a humble servant of God and an Afghan citizen I would like to tell you that I will do my best to protect the religion, independence and dignity of Islam," said Mr Karzai.

We've seen with the Taleban what has been done in the name of Islam and we should not defame it any more

Gul Agha Shirzai

Some delegates are pushing for Sharia law to be implemented and for the government to be called the "transitional Islamic administration of Afghanistan".

But the governor of Kandahar did not agree.

"We've seen with the Taleban what has been done in the name of Islam and we should not defame it any more," said Gul Agha Shirzai.

Cabinet composition

The composition of Mr Karzai's cabinet remains wide open.

Delegates at the conference are expected to redress the balance of power within the government, which has been dominated by the Northern Alliance since it defeated the former Taleban regime last November.

The number of cabinet positions is likely to be reduced, while some prominent members of the current interim administration are expected to be passed over for jobs.

Afghan women delegates to the loya jirga
The Taleban did not allow women a public role

Interior Minister Yunis Qanooni offered his resignation at the start of the loya jirga on Tuesday, but he and fellow Northern Alliance members Defence Minister Mohammed Qasim Fahim and Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah are expected to keep their posts.

Mr Karzai shied away from specifics on Friday when asked whether the armed factions would have less power in his next government and in particular, whether there would be change in the defence, interior and intelligence portfolios where interim ministers have largely employed their own factional fighters.

Although Friday is normally a day of rest in Afghanistan, correspondents say delegates are being given a whole day to speak from the floor - letting off steam was how one diplomat described it.

Attention will focus on whether Afghanistan's warlords will be brought into the government, despite Mr Karzai's vow to tackle warlordism.

Many delegates on the floor have said they fear Mr Karzai is as yet too weak to do anything but share power with the warlords, our correspondent says.

Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan
"We must not lose peace"


Political uncertainty






See also:

13 Jun 02 | South Asia
14 Jun 02 | South Asia
13 Jun 02 | South Asia
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