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At Afghanistan's Loya Jirga, former King nominates Hamid Karzai to lead nation

At Afghanistan's Loya Jirga, former King nominates Hamid Karzai to lead nation

As Afghanistan today opened its Loya Jirga - a tribal council considered key to the country's political transition - the former King nominated Hamid Karzai to lead the nation, according to a United Nations spokeswoman.

After formally opening the Loya Jirga in Kabul, King Zahir Shah urged delegates to work for the unity and the independence of Afghanistan and then nominated the Chairman of its Interim Authority to lead the Transitional Government. "The nomination was well received," spokeswoman Marie Okabe told the press in New York.

Speaking to the assembled delegates, Mr. Karzai said that Afghans, who had achieved national unity, now wanted peace, independence and freedom. He proposed that the King be given the title 'Father of the Nation,' a proposal which Ms. Okabe reported "received a positive reaction."

Also addressing participants, the head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Lakhdar Brahimi, hailed the significance of the gathering. While acknowledging that the process had not been perfect, he asked, "is it not remarkable that, in a country that has just emerged from three decades of brutal conflict and lawlessness, so many Afghans - though unarmed, powerless and often poor - had the courage to resist interference; that some of you and your fellow Afghans walked for hours, even days, to reach meeting centres, insisting that your voices be heard; and that so many fought - not with guns, but with their courage and their votes - to preserve the integrity of this national process?"

Mr. Brahimi also urged those present to represent the aspirations of their countrymen. "The entire world has followed the suffering of the Afghan people over the past 23 years," he said. "Their eyes are upon you today, but far more important is the fact that the eyes of your fellow Afghans are upon you."

An estimated 2000 people, including delegates, community leaders, friends of Afghanistan and UN staff, turned out for the Loya Jirga. The leader of the State will be elected during the Loya Jirga's working sessions.