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Voting begins in Afghan Parliament

Afghanistan's Parliament began voting by secret ballot to approve the appointment of President Hamid Karzai's new cabinet.

india Updated: Apr 20, 2006 18:49 IST

Afghanistan's Parliament on Thursday began voting by secret ballot to approve the appointment of President Hamid Karzai's new cabinet.

President Karzai, who has been leading Afghanistan since shortly after the ousting of the fundamentalist Taliban regime in 2001, announced his new 25-member cabinet after a slight reshuffle last month.

A live telecast by local television showed members of the 249-strong Parliament casting their votes in 25 ballot boxes -- one for each minister.

New Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta was the first to get the vote of confidence.

He was followed by Defence Minister General Abdul Rahim Wardak, who has been in the post since Afghanistan's October 2004 presidential election.

Under the Afghan constitution the parliament must approve all members of cabinet. If a minister is rejected, the president will put forward another candidate for that post.

All ministers made speeches before the lower house where they described their achievements and future plans for the ministry.

The MPs also asked questions from ministers before voting.

Lower house speaker Yunus Qanooni urged MPs in his opening speech to put aside ethnic, linguistic and factional affiliations and think of the national interest when voting for ministers.

The assembly was elected last September on a non-party basis in Afghanistan's first free parliamentary polls for 30 years, seen as a key step to rebuilding the war-shattered nation.

It brought together several ex-Taliban members, former communist officials, leaders of anti-Soviet factions as well as technocrats and women's rights activists.

Qanooni, who lost the 2004 presidential election to Karzai, was an active member of one of the strongest factions that helped oust the Taliban in late 2001.

The ballot counting for rest of the ministers was in progress and expected to be finalised later on Thursday, officials said.