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Afghan Women to be Given Large Part in Choosing New Government - 2002-03-31


Afghan officials say only six religious leaders but 160 women will sit on the Loya Jirga -- the traditional council of leaders which will choose the country's next government.

The head of the U-N appointed commission on elections to the council, announced Sunday that former Afghan King Mohammad Zahir Shah will return to his homeland on April 16th to start formally organizing the Loya Jirga.

It will meet from June 10th until June 16th.

In another break from the Taleban regime, the 14-hundred and 50 Loya Jirga members will be taken from a broad range of the Afghan population, including refugees, cultural and academic organizations, and religious minorities.

Women, who the Taleban banned from participating in nearly all activities in Afghanistan, will have a significant presence on the council. But only a fraction of the seats will go to religious leaders.

All Loya Jirga members must have no links to terrorist organizations, drug smuggling, or suspected war criminals.

Former members of the Taleban are welcome to campaign for seats as long as they meet the criteria.

The Loya Jirga -- a centuries-old Afghan tradition -- will choose a new government to replace Hamid Karzai's interim administration.

It will rule for 18 months before elections are held.

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