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Karzai Names 4 Provincial Governors - 2002-07-31

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has named four new provincial governors in a move to consolidate his power outside the capital, Kabul. A presidential spokesman says the four new governors will replace local strongmen who grabbed power after the Taleban government fell last December.

President Karzai hopes to strengthen his authority in the provinces, where factional fighting between local warlords continues. The four new governors are Said Mahmood in Kunar, Mohammad Ibrahim Babakar Khel in Laghman, Munshi Majid in Logar, and Mohammad Omar in Baghlan.

In another development, the Afghan cabinet formally ratified the international treaty to ban landmines. The action coincides with an international anti-mine conference this week in Kabul. Afghanistan is regarded as one of the world's most mine-infested countries, and as many as 10-people a day are killed or injured by landmines.

Jody Williams, who won the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for her campaign to ban landmines, has hailed the government's quick action on the treaty. "We will support all efforts of the government to fulfill its treaty obligations in a timely fashion," she said. "And we will continue to lobby the international community to provide the resources necessary to take the mines out of the ground and aid the victims."

Meanwhile, the U.S. military denies that it covered up important evidence following a deadly air raid this month on a wedding party in central Uruzgan province. Afghan officials say 48-people were killed in the attack.

The Times newspaper of London has published an account based on initial findings by a U.N. team. It alleges that U.S. forces arrived after the raid and cleaned up shrapnel, bullets, and traces of blood.

The United Nations says the information contained in the preliminary report was not fully documented, and the judgements were not sufficiently substantiated.