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Bush Praises New Afghan Constitution - 2004-01-04

President Bush is praising Afghanistan's new constitution, calling it a historic step forward.

President Bush says a democratic Afghanistan will help the Afghan people, as they build a free and prosperous future.

In a written statement, Mr. Bush says the new constitution lays the foundation for democratic institutions, and provides a framework for national elections later this year. He says a democratic Afghanistan will serve the interests of all its people, and will help ensure that terrorists never again find refuge on Afghan soil.

The new constitution emerged from Afghanistan's constitutional assembly after weeks of wrangling. It provides for a strong presidential system of government, but one where the elected president will have to answer to parliament on certain issues.

Debate on the document was at times rancorous, and displayed ethnic divisions in Afghanistan. Disagreement over the designation of national languages threatened the agreement, and a last minute deal cleared the way for approval by the assembly.