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Karzai:  No Compromises in New Afghan Constitution - 2003-12-31

Afghanistan's transitional President Hamid Karzai is optimistic the country's constitutional assembly will soon decide on a new form of government.

President Hamid Karzai blamed several delegates at Afghanistan's constitutional assembly, the loya jirga, for delaying the adoption of a new constitution.

While speaking to reporters, he said four or five delegates, whom he would not name, are holding out against a final decision on the constitution.

One of the main issues under contention is whether the country should have a strong president, as called for in the draft constitution prepared earlier this year by the transitional government.

Some delegates, many from Afghanistan's ethnic minorities, are instead urging that power be concentrated in a parliament.

But Mr. Karzai, who supports a presidential system, says if the majority of loya jirga delegates oppose a parliamentary government, then they should not compromise on the issue.

Fierce arguments over this issue, as well as over questions of a national language and the procedure for appointing certain government officials, caused the loya jirga to adjourn earlier than scheduled Tuesday, without finishing a vote on the constitution.

Despite the quarrels and the fact the assembly has run a week longer than originally planned, President Karzai says government officials expect a conclusion soon.

"Let us hope to have it in two or three days time, hopefully tomorrow," he said. "That is what I was told by the secretariat."

Mr. Karzai's government was installed after a U.S.-led coalition ousted the hard-line Taleban government in 2001. Under the terms of the transitional government, the loya jirga is to adopt a new constitution, and national elections are to be held in 2004.