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Delegates Speak Out at Afghanistan's Loya Jirga - 2002-06-12


Afghanistan's grand council has delayed a vote on the country's new leadership.

The Loya Jirga was to have elected a council chairman and deputies on Wednesday, then move on to choosing the head of the next interim national government.

But many of the more than 15-hundred delegates instead took turns at the microphone to make statements, ask questions or lodge complaints. Observers say it appeared that frustrations pent-up by 30 years of war and civil unrest were suddenly released in a burst of free expression.

Reuters reports as many as 70 delegates walked out of Wednesday's meeting, frustrated at what they say is the lack of a free vote on the country's future.

The election of the leader to head Afghanistan for the next 18-months is expected Thursday at the earliest.

Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai is favored to win the vote, following announcements by former king Mohammad Zahir Shah and former president Burhanuddin Rabbani they will not seek the leadership position.

Late Wednesday, there was brief panic at a Kabul hotel when a machine gun belonging to German peacekeepers accidentally discharged. The shooting left six bullet holes in a television truck. But no one was injured.

The German troops are there as part of an international force keeping security at the assembly. Earlier, the peacekeepers intercepted four bodyguards of prominent Afghan Ahmed Wali Masood as they headed toward the Loya Jirga site. The four men were taken into custody and turned over to local police.

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