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Afghan Defense Minister Endorses Interim Government - 2002-06-08


Afghanistan's defense minister says the country's interim government is the best choice to lead the nation for two more years.

Mohammed Qasim Fahim told reporters in Kabul (Saturday) interim leader Hamid Karzai and the rest of the current cabinet would ensure peace and stability. He described Mr. Karzai's government as moderate and capable of maintaining a balance among Afghanistan's feuding ethnic tribes.

Mr. Fahim says he will ask a grand council of tribal leaders (Loya Jirga) to retain the current administration when it meets Monday to begin selecting a two-year transitional government for the country.

However, many Pashtuns -- Afghanistan's largest ethnic group -- say minority Tajiks have too much power in the government. Hamid Karzai is Pashtun, as were most members of the Taleban, who were driven from power last year. The defense minister and other key members are Tajik, who led the opposition Northern Alliance effort to oust the Taleban.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has appealed for donations to help Afghanistan form the new government as well as care for up to two-million refugees expected to return home this year. A senior official (Undersecretary General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergrast) says there is a severe shortage of funds for the Loya Jirga.

U-N refugee officials also say they have received less than half of 271-million dollars international donors have promised to help Afghans return home. The U-N refugee agency says it will run out of money for Afghan relief efforts by the end of the month, unless international donors contribute more.

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