UN mission chief says Afghanistan will flounder without functional government

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London/Kabul, Jan. 4 (ANI): The head of the United Nations in Kabul has warned that Afghanistan risked floundering "without a functioning government", after only seven of the President's twenty-four ministerial candidates were approved in a secret ballot on Saturday.

"I think most of us were surprised by how many ministers were not approved. It prolongs the situation without a functioning government, and that's a situation that has lasted since the election period [in August]," The Times quoted Kai Eide, the Norwegian head of the UN mission, as saying.

Transforming the Government into a "credible partner" capable of delivering basic services to its people is a key part of Nato's strategy to lure people away from the insurgents.

But the Afghan Parliament's decision - and MPs being about to start a six-week winter recess tomorrow - mean that Afghanistan is unlikely have a complete Cabinet until mid-February at the earliest.

"It will take weeks. It could take more than weeks," Eide warned.

President Karzai's choice of ministers was seen as a key test of his resolve to root out the corruption and cronyism that have paralysed Western efforts to help to rebuild the country.

His list was a complex compromise between the international community and appeasing the warlords, with hundreds of jobs that he promised them in exchange for support in last year's fraudulent presidential elections.

When the final list of 24 names was announced two weeks ago, a month after Karzai was sworn in, it was largely welcomed by Kabul's Western backers, whose aid money is dependent on the President fulfilling his pledge to clean up his administration.

Parliament's decision to endorse only seven candidates has left diplomats anxious that Karzai may renege on that promise in order to get another Cabinet approved.

Many Afghan politicians said that the rejection was a triumph of democracy - the first time that MPs had held the President to account in eight years.

A palace spokesman said yesterday that Karzai would abide by the ruling and submit a new list of candidates, but he did not say when. (ANI)

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