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Afghanistan to Convene Parliament, Reacts to US Policy Review

Spokesman for the Afghan President, Waheed Omar speaks during a press conference in Kabul (file photo – 29 Dec 2009)

Afghanistan's parliament will reconvene on January 20, more than four months after elections tainted by widespread fraud were held.

Waheed Omar, a spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, said Monday parliament will convene after winter break.

The final results for the 249-seat lower house of parliament, or Wolesi Jirga, were originally due in October, but were not announced until December 1.

Afghan election authorities delayed the announcement pending investigations into more than 5,000 complaints of rigging, irregularities and intimidation of voters by local warlords.

The allegations led to the disqualification of 24 candidates who were initially declared winners. More than a quarter of the more than 5.6 million votes case were disqualified.

Meanwhile, an official with the Electoral Complaints Commission was shot and wounded on Sunday in the northern province of Takhar.

On Monday, presidential spokesman Omar also said a number of Afghan concerns were not addressed in last week's U.S. strategy review on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Omar said the Afghan government supports a large part of the strategy, but he said Afghan concerns about civilian casualties and so-called "night raids" – when coalition troops raid Afghan homes looking for Taliban fighters – were not included in the strategy review. He also said the review did not address President Karzai's call for talks with the Taliban to bring an end to the war.

Mr. Karzai has yet to speak publicly about the review, which found that NATO forces are making progress in the fight against the Taliban, but that any gains are fragile and reversible.