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Karzai's New Cabinet Keeps Most Top Ministers Favored By West

Last updated (GMT/UTC): 19.12.2009 13:35

(RFE/RL) -- The Afghan government has formally presented to parliament a list of nominees for the new cabinet of President Hamid Karzai, who is under Western pressure to tackle corruption following his controversial reelection.

Karzai's proposed lineup keeps most of the top ministers favored by the West, including Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak, Interior Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar, and Finance Minister Hazarat Omar Zakhelwal.

Karzai, who was reelected in an August 20 vote marred by fraud, has been facing intense pressure from Western nations to cleanse his government of corruption and mismanagement.

The ministers of mines and of the hajj, both accused of embezzling large sums of donor money, are not among the nominees.

One former warlord accused of human rights abuses, Energy and Water Minister Ismail Khan, is included in the list.

Expectations Dashed

Jan Alekozai, a senior correspondent with RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan, says Afghans who had hoped for real change are disappointed by the new cabinet.

"People were expecting that after having waited for such a long time, and under international pressure and also pressure from the public, President Karzai would nominate a very good and specialized cabinet," Alekozai says. "Unfortunately, many think this didn't happen."

Many analysts say the cabinet list, which retains as many as 11 current ministers, represents a desire for continuity.

Shukria Paikan, a female deputy, is among those who wished for more change.

"The president should have considered more women in the new cabinet," Paikan says. "In my opinion, there is no major change in the new cabinet. Most of them are ex-cabinet ministers."

Only one woman, the minister of women's affairs, was nominated.

The cabinet list was presented to the Wolsi Jirga, the lower house of parliament, by First Vice President Mohammad Qasim Fahim.

Extensive Consultations

Presidential spokesman Waheed Omar said today that the list was prepared following consultations with political figures, as well as Afghan and international experts.

"The list that you see today and that was presented to parliament was decided by the president after listening to the views of political, social, and cultural figures inside the country and to the views of the international community," Omar said. "But the final decision was made by the president of Afghanistan."

Nominees for the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Ministry for the Disabled have not yet been named.

Omar told a news conference that the current foreign minister, Rangin Dadfar Spanta, would retain his post until a London conference on Afghanistan scheduled for January 28 is held.

The 23 nominees must be approved by parliament before they can take office.

Parliament speaker Younis Qanuni offered to start discussing the new cabinet in an emergency session on December 20.

The parliamentarians must check each nominee's credentials before starting the process for a vote of confidence. The process is expected to take up to two weeks.

RFE/RL's Golnaz Esfandiari contributed to this article; with agency reports

Source: http://www.rferl.org/content/Karzai_Presents_New_Cabinet_Nominees_In_Nod_To_The_West/1908121.html

Copyright (c) 2009. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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