Karzai Presents New Cabinet List After First Is Rejected

Afghan President Hamid Karzai presented a second slate of nominees to fill his Cabinet on Saturday after parliament rejected 70 percent of his first picks.

Last week's rejection by lawmakers of 17 of 24 nominees was a setback to Karzai's efforts to get his second term in office into full operation so he can focus on badly needed reforms in a country at war for more than eight years.

The U.S. and other donor nations have been pressing Karzai to get his administration assembled ahead of an international conference on Afghanistan to be held Jan. 28 in London.

Second Vice President Karim Khalili announced 16 ministerial candidates, including 15 to replace those rejected the first time plus Karzai's pick to head the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zalmay Rasoul, a longtime national security adviser. That post was not part of his first submission.

He did not submit names to replace Ishmail Khan, an infamous warlord who currently is the minister of water and energy, who had been rejected in the first vote. He also did not submit a name for telecommunications. He said nominees for those portfolios would be announced soon.

"I request that all the lawmakers think about the national interest of the country, the current situation of the country and the desires of the Afghan people and make a good decision," Khalili said as he read the names to parliament.

Some political analysts had expected Karzai to resubmit the names of rejected candidates for different positions but all the nominees announced Saturday had not been on the first list.

Karzai's credibility both at home and abroad was shaken by the fraud-plagued presidential elections in August. In the first vote on the Cabinet nominees, lawmakers rejected nominees viewed as Karzai's political cronies, those believed to be under the influence of warlords and others deemed unqualified.

Parliament did approve his retention of incumbents in the key portfolios of defense, interior, finance and agriculture in the Jan. 2 vote. All these were favored by the U.S. and other nations supplying troops and aid to Afghanistan.

The U.S. and other Western nations hope that a stronger government will help keep disenchanted Afghans from siding with Taliban insurgents.

Two members of the NATO-led force died Friday, including a Danish soldier killed by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan.

NATO said Saturday another service member — whose nationality was not released — died Friday from wounds suffered in a vehicle accident in western Afghanistan.

A rocket also struck a clinic providing services for Afghans on Friday on a base of NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Kunar province, slightly wounding a number of service members, according to a statement by ISAF's regional office.

Remote-controlled bombs also struck Afghans on Saturday. One blast hit a convoy carrying a provincial council member from Wardak province, killing a bodyguard and wounding five others, Interior Ministry spokesman Zemari Bashary said.

Another explosion killed one policeman and wounded two in Kandahar, according to the ministry.