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Transitional Afghan Government Unveils Draft Constitution - 2003-11-03

Afghanistan's transitional government has unveiled the long-delayed, post-Taleban draft of a new constitution. The document intends to build a political system that will help unite Islamic and secular groups in the war-ravaged nation.

The draft constitution, which describes Afghanistan as an Islamic republic, was presented to President Hamid Karzai at a ceremony in Kabul.

The commission that drafted the document says it is based on Islamic principles and recognizes that no law can be contrary to what it calls the "sacred religion" of Islam. The commission adds that the new constitution allows for freedom of religion for other faiths in Afghanistan.

A constitutional "Loya Jirga," or grand assembly, will formally adopt the draft in December, which should set the stage for elections next year.

The constitution calls for the creation upper and lower houses of parliament and the post of president and vice president. It gives the president a strong role as the leader of the country and eliminates the post of prime minister included in previous versions of the constitution.

Many feared a strong prime minister could have emerged as a political and military rival to the president.

The long-delayed draft is made public at a time when a big delegation of ambassadors representing the United Nations Security Council is in Kabul to underline U.N. support for efforts to reconstruct Afghanistan.

"Afghanistan is high on the agenda of the Security Council," said Germany's Gunter Pleuger, who is leading the delegation. "The Security Council and the international community support the reconstruction process in Afghanistan."

The United Nations last month voted to extend the peace-keeping operations in Afghanistan. Aid workers and western diplomats say that security situation must improve if elections are to be held next year.

A statement from Human Rights Watch warns that a new wave of violence and intimidation is threatening the political reconstruction in Afghanistan. It also has urged President Karzai to take action to minimize the number of warlords and their representatives attending the constitutional assembly next month.