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Afghan lower house votes on new cabinet members

Written by: Staff

KABUL, Apr 20 (Reuters) Afghanistan's lower house of parliament voted today on members of President Hamid Karzai's new cabinet with most of them expected to win approval.

Under the country's new constitution, the assembly elected last September must approve cabinet members in what is being seen as a test of opposition to Karzai, who has been leading Afghanistan since the Taliban were ousted in 2001.

''Taking into consideration God and the interests of the nation, we have to vote for those who can serve this country,'' Abdul Rabb Rasoul Sayyaf, a powerful former anti-Soviet guerrilla leader and Karzai supporter, told fellow members of parliament.

Karzai, who won a presidential election in 2004 and is backed by the West, announced a limited cabinet reshuffle last month that included the appointment of an adviser on foreign affairs, Rangeen Dadfar Spanta, as foreign minister.

Members voted for the 25 ministers individually and by secret ballot. One of the early results showed Spanta had won approval.

Full results were expected later today.

Speaking before the vote, members of parliament said they expected several of the nominated ministers to be rejected, but they did not expect strong opposition to Karzai's main choices.

If a nominee is rejected, Karzai will propose a new one.

Last month's cabinet changes were aimed at improving government efficiency and came after protracted negotiations between political and ethnic factions.

Unlike previous cabinets, the new line-up contains only a handful of old faction commanders, and more well-educated technocrats.

September's general election, held on a non-party basis, produced a disparate group of former communist officials, several ex-Taliban members, as well as technocrats and women's rights activists.

But the 249-seat lower house is dominated by members of former Mujahideen, or holy warrior, factions that battled Soviet occupiers in the 1980s, fought a civil war for much of the 1990s and helped U S forces overthrow the Taliban in 2001.


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