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AFGHANISTAN - Dec 7 - Vowing To Restore Security, Karzai Takes Oath.

Hamid Karzai who on Oct 9 easily wins election to a five-year term after serving as a head of a transitional government, is sworn in first popularly elected president, three years after American-backed resistance fighters swept the Taliban government from power. Karzai, took the oath of office in a nationally televised ceremony on the presidential grounds before an audience of hundreds of Afghan ministers, tribal elders, political and military leaders and 150 foreign dignitaries, including Vice Pres Dick Cheney. With American snipers perched on rooftops and Apache helicopter gunships patrolling overhead against a threatened Taliban attack, Karzai promised in his address to use his sweeping mandate from the people to select an efficient, reform-minded cabinet that will not be constrained by powerful factional and ethnic interests, as his cabinets have been in the past. "We have now left a hard and dark past behind us, and today we are opening a new chapter in our history, in a spirit of friendship with the international community", said Karzai, who spoke alternately in Pashto and Dari, the country's two major languages, in his 15-minute speech. Wearing a black lambskin hat and traditional striped silk coat, Karzai took his oath before the ageing former king, Zaher Shah. The president himself then swore in his two vice presidents, Ahmad Zia Massoud and Mohammad Karim Khalili, who represent the two largest ethnic minorities, the Tajiks and the Shiite Hazaras, after Karzai's own ethnic group, the Pashtuns. Karzai vowed to strengthen security and stability across the country, combat narcotics production and smuggling and collect weapons and disarm militias, all key campaign pledges. And he spoke of bringing the rule of law and prosperity to the country, protecting the civil liberties and human rights of the people, fighting corruption, building national unity and strengthening international relations. Though much reduced, the threat of terrorism still remains, he warned, and he appealed for continued international assistance to help Afghanistan in its fight against extremists. Karzai said: Our struggle against terrorism is not over. On the road to fighting worldwide terrorism, we feel the need of serious cooperation from the region and from other countries in the world". Karzai this week faces the first test of his government in choosing a new cabinet. There has been intense speculation and maneuvering for cabinet posts since he was declared the winner of the election a month ago. Karzai has vowed to choose a cabinet of professionals, but as he has been paring down his list of prospective ministers he is being forced to satisfy the different powerful factions, as well as his own tribal and regional supporters. As the weekly newspaper Kabul Weekly wrote this week, half of his cabinet choices will be pragmatic ones, figures chosen because of their military or regional power or family connection to the president. In an open letter this week to Karzai, the New York-based Human Rights Watch warned against appointing warlords or people with poor human right records. The inauguration took place in the Salaam Khana (Saluting House) inside the Arg, the presidential palace compound, under heavy security.
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Title Annotation:Hamid Karzai
Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Geographic Code:9AFGH
Date:Dec 11, 2004
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A familiar story in forgotten Afghanistan.

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