KABUL, 1 Jan: EU representative Francesc Vendrell said on Thursday he was "very disturbed" after the chairman to Afghanistan's constitutional convention branded as "infidels" delegates who did not want the country described as Islamic.

The delegates collected more than the necessary 151 signatures and presented an amendment calling for the word "Islamic" to be removed from article one of the draft constitution, which describes Afghanistan as an "Islamic republic".

"We won't vote on this. People who suggest such things are infidels," said Sibghatullah Mujaddedi, chairman of the loya jirga, meeting to ratify the new constitution. The meeting was adjourned to Saturday after around 200 delegates boycotted the start of voting on disputed articles.

"I was very disturbed this morning when chairman Mujaddedi, perhaps not realizing what he was saying, that he threatened the delegates who had sponsored an amendment suggesting that Afghanistan be called the 'republic of Afghanistan' instead of the 'Islamic republic of Afghanistan'," Mr Vendrell told reporters in the huge white tent where the loya jirga has been meeting since Dec 14.

"I found that very puzzling from a person like Mujaddedi who is a Sufi leader and I always expected him to be tolerant," he said. "This is the word I expected to hear from the Taliban but I never heard it."

Mr Vendrell also criticized the process as lacking transparency and said the draft presented to the assembly was not the same as the document a committee of delegates had finally agreed on.-AFP

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