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Afghan Loya Jirga

Afghan Loya Jirga Convenes for Second Day

An extraordinary gathering of 1,500 Afghans convened for a second day Wednesday after the former president joined the ex-king in bowing out of the leadership race, paving the way for the election of American-backed interim leader Hamid Karzai.Mohammad Zaher Shah, the former monarch who formally convened the grand council, or loya jirga, on Tuesday urged the delegates to work "for the unity and independence of Afghanistan" after 23 devastating years of war.However, the political maneuvering surrounding the loya jirga left some delegates disillusioned and angry that foreigners and special interests had usurped their role in guiding the nation's future."This is not a democracy; it is a rubber stamp," complained Seema Samar, the women's affairs minister. "Everything has already been decided by the powerful ones."Nevertheless, the gathering of delegates from all sectors of Afghan society — women, turbaned clerics and sophisticated, foreign-educated, one-time exiles in Western business suits...

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