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Afghanistan's New President Promises 'Effective' Government - 2002-06-14

The head of Afghanistan's new transitional authority says he is committed to establishing real and effective government in his country. He also calls on members of the international community to deliver on their promises of aid, so Afghanistan can get moving on reconstruction.

Speaking one day after his landslide election by a traditional elective council, Hamid Karzai said his transitional government is committed to establishing genuine democratic government.

"I don't want a banana republic, what is that called? I want a real country. I want a real, free judiciary," Mr. Karzai said. "I want them to have the authority to take criminals to court, to bring justice to this country. And when the parliamentary elections take place, I want a real legislative body, laws to be made by them, government to made accountable. There has to be accountability, otherwise we will go nowhere."

The Loya Jirga, or grand council, elected Mr. Karzai Thursday by an overwhelming margin, with more than 80 percent of the delegates voting for him. Mr. Karzai has headed the outgoing transitional government for the past six months. Under the Bonn Accords signed late last year, the new government - dubbed the Transitional Authority - will draft a new constitution and pave the way for elections.

It is a formidable task. Afghanistan does not have a tradition of strong central government, and much power has shifted into the hands of local warlords during 30 years of war and civil strife. Some of those warlords were able to win places as delegates to the Loya Jirga.

Mr. Karzai, who referred to himself as president, said that the warlords will gradually be disarmed as a new national army is built. But he said that - at least for now - the search for peace and stability may have to take precedence over bringing criminals to justice.

"We are not thinking in terms of reconciliation. We are thinking in terms of justice and peace," he stressed. "But we must find and determine first whether we want justice and peace together - can we afford that, can we have it - or should we go in stages - first have peace and stability, stabilize that, make it strong, and then give the people of Afghanistan the justice that they require. If we could do both at the same time, it would be great. Do we have that luxury? We must see."

Mr. Karzai called on the international community fulfill its pledges of aid for Afghanistan, saying what has come in has been "minimal" as he put it, to what has been promised. His first priority for that aid, he said, is rebuilding the country's shattered road system.

"I will not accept any excuses in that. I want the world community to help Afghanistan rebuild its highways. We need to have roads in order for our people to be able to communicate and go and do business. That's a priority. It's also labor intensive. It will attract a lot of labor, it will find a lot of jobs for Afghans," he said.

And, in words designed to soothe the worries of potential foreign investors, Mr. Karzai also pledged to run both an effective and clean administration.

"We will not only continue to improve the structure of the administration, make it more efficient, but we will work relentlessly, very relentlessly, against corruption," Mr. Karzai said. " This is an area in which I will be as determined to fight as we fight against terrorism. This menace must go away."

Mr. Karzai is mulling over who will be in the new cabinet, which must be approved by the Loya Jirga. Afghan political sources say there is intense backroom negotiations going on about those choices.