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Afghanistan to inaugurate new leaders amid tension

By Agencies in Kabul and Beijing | China Daily | Updated: 2014-09-29 07:36

Afghanistan is due to hold its presidential inauguration on Monday, with Ashraf Ghani, a noted academic, taking power as NATO troops end their 13-year intervention that failed to stop an ongoing Taliban insurgency.

Ghani succeeds outgoing President Hamid Karzai after a three-month standoff over disputed election results that fueled the insurgency and worsened Afghanistan's dire economic outlook.

The ceremony will be the country's first democratic transfer of power - a benchmark seen by international donors as a key legacy of the costly military and civilian intervention since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

Yin Weimin, China's minister of human resources and social security, will attend as an envoy of President Xi Jinping, Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Sunday.

Both Ghani and his poll rival Abdullah Abdullah, a former anti-Taliban resistance fighter, claimed to have won the fraud-tainted June 14 runoff election, tipping Afghanistan into a crisis that threatened to trigger nationwide unrest.

Under heavy pressure from the US and UN, the two candidates eventually agreed to form a national unity government, and Ghani was declared president after an audit of nearly 8 million ballot papers.

Abdullah is also due to be inaugurated on Monday as chief executive, a new role similar to a prime minister, in a government structure far different to Karzai's all-powerful presidency.

Karzai has had a rocky relationship with the US-led NATO military coalition and other international backers who pumped billions of dollars into the war-wracked country, but he struck a conciliatory tone in his final days in office.

"I can say with confidence that Afghanistan will soon witness peace and stability, and the new president and his government will have your support," he told ambassadors at a farewell meeting on Saturday.

"Now we see children going to school, roads reconstructed, progress in the health sector and the Afghan flag proudly waving around the world - these are all because of international support and assistance."

Under the Taliban's 1996-2001 regime, girls were banned from education, and women were not allowed outside unless wearing a burqa and accompanied by a man.

Television and music were also outlawed, and men were beaten for not growing a beard.

On Sunday, a bomb hit a military vehicle in the diplomatic quarter of the Afghan capital, wounding one person a day before the inauguration.

Police said no one was killed by the magnetic bomb, which was attached to a military truck in Zanbaq Square, near the vast presidential palace compound and several embassies.

"At 9:15 this morning, a sticky bomb attached to an Afghan army vehicle exploded in Zanbaq Square ... only injuring the driver," Najib Danish, Interior Ministry deputy spokesman, said.

Security is tight in Kabul ahead of the inauguration Ghani, a widely known intellectual with ties to the US, including Johns Hopkins University.

He has contributed extensively to Western media coverage as an expert commentator on Afghanistan.

International leaders and dignitaries have been invited to the ceremony.

AFP - Reuters - Xinhua

 Afghanistan to inaugurate new leaders amid tension

Afghan president-elect Ashraf Ghani (center) prays while flanked by Independent Electoral Commission chief Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani (right) and deputy chief Abdul Rahman Hotaki during a ceremony at the IEC compound in Kabul on Friday. The presidential inauguration of Ghani is scheduled for Monday. Noorullah Shirzada / Agence France-Presse

(China Daily 09/29/2014 page11)

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