Afghanistan's Loya Jirga grand assembly has overwhelmingly elected interim leader Hamid Karzai the country's new president.
The vote (Thursday) came as the assembly in Kabul continues efforts to heal a nation broken by more than two decades of war, tribal infighting and poverty.
Mr. Karzai will head a transitional government that will rule Afghanistan for the next 18 months.
The 44-year-old Mr. Karzai won 12-hundred-ninety-five votes out of more than 15-hundred cast. Massouda Jalal, a female employee of the World Food program, won 171 votes and a government employee, Mahfouz Nedayee, took 89.
Mr. Karzai said he was happy and proud that after 25 years, all Afghans had gathered under one tent and that Afghan refugees are coming back home.
The U-S State Department extended immediate congratulations to the new Afghan president. A spokesman says Washington has excellent working relations with Mr. Karzai and expects to continue that cooperation as the international community works with Afghan officials to rebuild the country's institutions.
The leadership vote was delayed from Wednesday, when heated debate gripped the assembly as delegates from across the country seized their chance to be heard after years of repression.
The Loya Jirga will next choose a cabinet and decide on a form of government for the new transitional authority.
Mr. Karzai's election was virtually assured earlier this week, after former king Mohammad Zahir Shah and former president Burhanuddin Rabbani both said they would not seek the top position.
An aide to Mr. Karzai says the new cabinet is expected to be smaller than the current one. But the final list of members will depend on the outcome of political negotiations.