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Fierce Argument in Afghan Loya Jirga Forces Adjournment - 2004-01-01

Fierce argument in Afghanistan's constitutional assembly, or loya jirga, has forced an adjournment until Saturday.

Attempts to approve a new constitution for Afghanistan broke down Thursday, amid heated arguments over plans to establish a government led by a single, powerful president.

Some delegates, mainly from Afghanistan's ethnic Tajik minority, are opposed to plans for a strong president, as called for in the draft version of the constitution.

They instead want power concentrated in a parliament, which they say can better represent Afghanistan's diversity.

But a slim majority of the delegates support the idea of a strong president as a way to unite the country, after more than two decades of fractious civil war.

With close to half of the assembly boycotting a vote on this and other related issues, loya jirga Chairman Subghatullah Mujadidi moved for a two-day adjournment, in order to give time for negotiations on the issue.

Sources close to the loya jirga say international observers, including the United Nations and the United States, are helping mediate discussions between the two sides.