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Loya Jirga Making Good Progress, says Karzai - 2003-12-20

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai says the loya jirga, or grand assembly, now meeting in Kabul to draft a new national constitution has made good progress in its first week of deliberations.

The new constitution is designed to set the stage for presidential elections in June. Mr. Karzai said he hopes the assembly will complete its work by the end of this month, but he added the session can be extended if needed.

The Afghan leader wants the loya jirga to approve a strongly centralized presidential system of government.

Some powerful warlords have been pressing to dilute presidential power by establishing a parliamentiary system headed by a prime minister.

On Saturday, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan - Zalmay Khalilzad - told reporters Mr. Karzai appears to be winning his campaign for a strong executive style government. He said early voting in the assembly indicates a majority of delegates support a strong presidential system.