Afghan lawmakers voting again on Karzai Cabinet

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KABUL (AP) — The Afghan parliament has approved President Hamid Karzai’s picks for foreign and justice ministers but rejected the nominee for higher education as voting began on a second slate of Cabinet choices after lawmakers rejected most of his first list.

The process was expected to take much of Saturday afternoon as votes were being tallied one-by-one for 17 new nominees. Lawmakers approved Karzai’s longtime national security adviser, Zalmay Rasoul, as foreign minister and Habibullah Ghaleb as justice minister but rejected his choice for higher education, Mohammad Hashim Esmatullahi.

Afghan lawmakers earlier this month rejected 70 percent of Karzai’s picks for his second-term Cabinet — a major setback in efforts to assemble a team to focus on badly needed reforms.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

KABUL (AP) — The Afghan parliament began voting Saturday on a second slate of President Hamid Karzai’s Cabinet choices after rejecting most of his first list.

The refusal by Afghan lawmakers to give votes of confidence for 70 percent of Karzai’s picks for his second-term Cabinet earlier this month was a setback for the president’s effort to assemble a team that can focus on badly needed reforms in his country, in its ninth year of war.

Saturday’s vote was on 17 new nominees, including three women and Karzai’s longtime national security adviser, Zalmay Rasoul, who was put forward for the key foreign minister post.

Lawmakers have complained that some nominees lack the credentials to serve in the 25-member Cabinet. Others have complained that some nominees are too closely aligned with warlords, or were picked to pay back political supporters who helped get the president re-elected.

The U.S. and other countries contributing troops and aid have pushed Karzai to get his second-term administration in place ahead of a Jan. 28 international conference on Afghanistan to be held in London.

Parliament did approve his retention of U.S.-backed incumbents in the key portfolios of defense, interior, finance and agriculture in the initial Jan. 2 vote.

Second Vice President Karim Khalili announced 16 ministerial candidates a week ago. The administration subsequently nominated Abdul Qadus to the telecommunications portfolio.

Karzai has not yet submitted a name to replace Ismail Khan, an infamous warlord who currently is the minister of water and energy and was rejected in the first vote.

Three women have been nominated to head the ministries of public health, women’s affairs and work and social affairs. The parliament’s earlier rejection of the only woman on Karzai’s current team — Minister of Women’s Affairs Husn Bano Ghazanfar — was an awkward blow to the president, who has pledged to place more women in high government posts in the traditionally male-dominated society.

The international community hopes that a stronger government will help keep disenchanted Afghans from siding with Taliban insurgents amid warnings violence will worsen as the U.S. and other countries step up efforts in the country.