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Afghan Minister Says His Appointment Not Final - 2002-06-23


Afghan interim President Hamid Karzai has announced the rest of his cabinet lineup. However, one key appointee says the announcement is premature, at least as far as he is concerned.

Former Interior Minister Yunus Qanooni stunned the new interim administration Sunday by saying that he has not yet accepted any role in the government.

Speaking on President Karzai's behalf Saturday evening, Yusef Nuristani announced an additional 13 members of the Cabinet in addition to the 14 already named by Mr. Karzai Wednesday at the grand elective council, the Loya Jirga. Mr. Nuristani said Mr. Qanooni had accepted a dual role, as education minister and national security advisor.

But in a surprise Sunday, Mr. Qanooni called reporters together to say that he has not accepted anything. Mr. Qanooni said he has not even decided whether he wants to be in the government. "I have not yet decided whether to accept the ministry, working in the Ministry of Education or in general participation in the transitional administration, or not," he said.

The announcement caught the Karzai administration totally unawares.

When contacted by a reporter, a spokesman for Mr. Karzai expressed surprise, saying that he knew nothing about it, and thought the matter had been settled. He had no further immediate comment.

Mr. Karzai, who was elected by the Loya Jirga as interim president last week, has been trying to put together a balanced Cabinet that represents all of Afghanistan's varied ethnic and tribal groups.

Mr. Qanooni had held the powerful post of interior minister in the outgoing interim administration, but resigned when the Loya Jirga began June 11. At the Loya Jirga, Mr. Karzai publicly pushed Mr. Qanooni to take the post of education minister. At the podium, Mr. Karzai said Mr. Qanooni, sitting in the front row, had accepted from the floor and that the matter was settled.

But Mr. Qanooni says that was not the case. "There was a commitment, an understanding, that on certain posts and portfolios, we should have reached an understanding before making an announcement," he said. "But our brother, Mr. Karzai, when he announced all these portfolios I was surprised."

Mr. Qanooni was then offered the additional job of national security advisor, a powerful post overseeing the security services. The Karzai administration thought that had sealed the deal. But from Mr. Qanooni's remarks, it apparently did not.

It had been rumored that Mr. Qanooni might challenge Mr. Karzai for the presidency at the Loya Jirga, but he did not. However, he remains a serious contender on Afghanistan's future political landscape. Mr. Qanooni says that if he does not accept a job in the transitional government, he might start his own political party.

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