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Afghan parliament approves interior minister, four others


Kabul: The Afghan parliament Monday approved five out of seven cabinet appointments by President Hamid Karzai, including a new interior minister.

General Bismullah Mohammadi, the former army chief of staff, will replace Mohammad Hanif Atmar as minister, according to state-run television.

Karzai sacked Atmar and spy chief Amrullah Saleh following a Taliban attack at a national peace conference in Kabul last month.

Although government spokesmen insisted that a “serious security lapse” during the assembly was behind Karzai’s decision, there was widespread speculation that the two officials had clashed with the president over his plan to negotiate with the Taliban.

Mohammadi, an ethnic Tajik, was a commander in the Northern Alliance, a group that fought against the Taliban regime before it was ousted by US-led international forces in late 2001.

Other nominees approved by the parliament included former Kandahar governor Assadullah as minister of border and tribal affairs, and Anwarul Haq Ahadi, a former finance minister, as commerce minister.

The little-known Jamahir Anwari and Abdul Qudoos Hamidi were approved to head the ministries of refugees and public works, respectively.

The Wolesi Jirga, or the lower house of parliament, rejected Sarwar Danish and Daoud Ali Najafi, both from the Hazara minority group, to head the ministries of higher education and transportation and civil aviation.

Najafi, who oversaw the presidential election last year, was accused by many independent observers and lawmakers of helping to engineer widespread fraud in favor of Karzai.

The parliamentarians previously dealt Karzai major political blows when they rejected 17 of his first 24 nominees in January, and then vetoed 10 other designated ministers two weeks later.

The president still needs seven other ministers and a chief of national intelligence for a full cabinet.

Chief presidential spokesman Wahid Omer said Monday that Karzai expressed regret at the parliament’s vote and said that it would take some time before he introduces new nominees for the remaining posts.

New parliamentary elections are slated for September.