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Annan Calls on Afghans to Support Interim Government - 2002-01-25

During a one-day visit to Afghanistan, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on Afghans to support their interim government, and also cautioned neighboring countries not to meddle in Afghanistan's affairs. At the same time, the U.N. selected a 21-member Afghan committee to organize a tribal council, or Loya Jirga. They, in turn, will select the next Afghan government.

It's another step in rebuilding Afghanistan, with the end goal of establishing a freely elected representative government.

Afghanistan's interim leader, Hamid Karzai, read out the names of the 21 committee members.

"I'm pleased to announce members of the special independent commission for convening of the emergency Loya Jirga. The first name is that of the chairman of the commission, who is Mr. Ismail Kasimiar, a very [well] known Afghan jurist, an expert on law, a man who knows the Afghan constitution very well," he said.

The U.N. selected the 21 names from more than 300 submitted to them by the Afghans. There were delays and differences over who should be included, and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the choice was not easy. He called on Afghans to work with the committee.

"We set out to get a group that would be independent, a group of men and women that would have integrity, who are highly respected within the society. Afghan women and men will have to work with these 21 men and women, who are going to organize the Loya Jirga. We have asked them to work in the interest of Afghanistan and the people, and not be pulled in any direction by one group or the other," Mr. Annan said.

The committee is to pave the way for convening the Loya Jirga, or council of elders, which will then select the next Afghan government to hold office until elections are held within two years.

Mr. Annan also called on Afghans to support their current interim government, and he cautioned Afghanistan's neighbors against interfering in Afghan affairs.

"We have been stressing with the governments [of neighboring countries] that they should not interfere in Afghanistan; they should not repeat the errors of the past, and that we should all work in the same direction. Most of them have given the assurance that they are going to work with us to ensure a peaceful and stable Afghanistan," he said.

Mr. Annan came to Afghanistan from neighboring Pakistan, where he met with President General Pervez Musharraf, and he flew on from here to another Afghan neighbor, Iran.

While in Kabul, Mr. Annan held talks with Mr. Karzai and also met with U.N. staff and the head of the international security force in the city. It was the first visit to Afghanistan by a U.N. secretary-general in over 40 years.