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Loya Jirga Tries Again To Choose Parliament Form - 2002-06-16


Afghanistan's grand council, or Loya Jirga, is set to reconvene later today (Monday) after a day of passionate debate on the shape of a transitional parliament.

Newly-elected Afghan president Hamid Karzai will speak in an attempt to forge a consensus among the ethnically-divided delegates. The council's chairman adjourned Sunday's session when delegates could not choose between two competing plans.

Delegates from more populous provinces want proportional representation, with one lawmaker is chosen for every 10 delegates to the Loya Jirga.

But ethnic Pashtun delegates back a plan that would give each of Afghanistan's 32 provinces two representatives each -- regardless of population. Pashtuns are Afghanistan's largest ethnic group but are not believed to comprise a majority.

There also is no agreement yet on who will select cabinet ministers to serve in the 18-month transitional government. Some delegates want the Loya Jirga to choose the ministers, while others want Mr. Karzai to fill the key posts.

The Loya Jirga overwhelmingly elected Mr. Karzai as president of the temporary government on Thursday. But since then, there have been few outward signs of progress.

Today was scheduled to be the Loya Jirga's final day. But sources at the assembly say it will most likely be extended through Tuesday.

The Loya Jirga is being held under a huge tent in Kabul, the capital of the war-torn country. The assembly has been marked by frayed tempers and name-calling among the more than 16-hundred delegates representing the many politically active factions in post-Taleban Afghanistan.

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