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Afghan Cabinet Sworn In


Afghanistan's interim president has sworn in a new cabinet. One holdout decided in the end to accept a post.

President Hamid Karzai administered the oath of office to his cabinet at a ceremony at the presidential palace Monday.

Among those taking the oath was former Interior Minister Yunus Qanooni. It had been announced Saturday that Mr. Qanooni had agreed to be education minister and national security advisor. But on Sunday, Mr. Qanooni threw the interim government into confusion by announcing that he had not yet agreed to join the government.

Speaking briefly to reporters before the inauguration, Mr. Qanooni said he had decided to accept a government post, after consulting with unnamed fellow Afghans.

Mr. Qanooni added that he is still contemplating starting a new political party, a move that would position him to make a run for the presidency at some future date. But in another surprise, Mr. Qanooni was not named national security advisor. That job went to Zalmay Rasoul, the civil aviation minister in the previous interim government and a loyalist of ex-king Zahir Shah. Mr. Qanooni was given the job of internal security advisor.

Mr. Rasoul said he will head a national security council, somewhat along the lines of the U.S. model, while Mr. Qanooni will offer his views on internal security matters. "The national security [council] is more a policy-making body," he said. "At the same time, it will have a group of thinkers.... Before taking any policy decisions, we are going to analyze the situation and propose to the chairman [Karzai] our conclusions. So, it is up to him to decide what policies he will follow."

The cabinet inauguration capped weeks of speculation, confusion, and negotiation for the jobs in the interim cabinet. Mr. Karzai was elected interim president at a just-completed grand elective council, the Loya Jirga. He was under enormous pressure from all sides as he tried to have a cabinet that represented various ethnic groups, while at the same time placating the armed factions that helped defeat the Taleban and hold military power.

Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah admits it was not an easy task, describing it as difficult and time-consuming. "It was a very interesting few days," he said. "It was a very difficult few days in a sense, but with a promising perspective throughout: never disappointing, sometimes confusing for the people, for the [Loya Jirga] delegates, for the journalists. Now we are in the process of building a nation, and building a state. And some of the appointments you might see have a political nature. Most of the appointments have a technical, technocrat nature."

The interim government, dubbed a transitional administration, will rule Afghanistan for 18 months as a new constitution is drafted that paves the way for elections.

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