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Karzai to replace foreign minister

March 23, 2006

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KABUL, March 22: Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced a limited cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday that included the appointment of an adviser on foreign affairs, Rangeen Dadfar Spanta, as foreign minister in place of Abdullah Abdullah. Other changes included new ministers of commerce, rural development, transport, women’s affairs, education and vocational and higher education, an official in Karzai’s office said.

Analysts said the changes were aimed at improving the government’s efficiency and came after protracted negotiations between different political factions.

“The president ... has appointed a new cabinet as well as members of the Supreme Court and presented it to the Wolesi Jirga for approval,” Karzai’s office said in a statement, referring to the lower house of parliament.

The assembly, formed after legislative elections in September, was not in session on Wednesday and it was not immediately clear when it would debate and vote on Karzai’s cabinet members.

There were no changes at the defence and finance ministries.

Zarar Ahmad Moqbel, who has been acting minister of interior since the resignation in September of the former minister, Ali Ahmad Jalali, was made minister.

Among new members of the cabinet are Ibrahim Adel, who was appointed minister of mines, while Mohammad Haider Reza was appointed minister of commerce and industries.

The former commerce minister, Hedayat Amin Arsala, was made a senior presidential adviser.

Ehsan Zia became minister of rural development, Gul Hussein Ahmadi was appointed transport minister, Soraya Rahim Sobhrang was made women’s affairs minister and Akbar Akbar was made minister of transport.

FM DENIES REPORTS: Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah has denied media reports that quoted him as saying that Osama bin Laden, his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri and Taliban leader Mullah Omar were all hiding in Pakistan.

“What I have stated might have been that to the best of our intelligence and information all these three gentlemen are not in Afghanistan,” he told a briefing in Washington on Tuesday afternoon.

“But I think wherever they are; they are a threat to all of us. They are posing a threat to peace and stability in our region,” he said when asked what evidence he had to support his claim that the three terrorist leaders were hiding in Pakistan.

“It is incumbent on all of us to work together to deal with them and to put an end to this problem, including the issue of dealing with the people which you named,” he added.

The Afghan foreign minister did not respond to the question if he would you demand an international military action against the terrorists hiding in the tribal area in which US and Afghan forces should also participate.