U.N. sets course for Afghan elections
KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- The first step in deciding the future government of Afghanistan has been taken with the formation of a 21-person commission to set the country on a path to elections.
The commission members were announced at a joint new conference in Kabul held by the head of Afghanistan's interim government, Hamid Karzai, and United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.
The commission will organize the convening of a Loya Jirga, a traditional Afghan tribal council that will meet in the spring to determine the future course of the war-ravaged country's political structure.
Karzai said the commission would be closely linked to the United Nations.
He said the creation of the Loya Jirga was be in accordance with the agreement among leaders of Afghan factions in Bonn, Germany, late last year to build a post-Taliban Afghan government.
The Loya Jirga, Karzai said is "a political institution that Afghans have had for centuries. It's a powerful institution that Afghans will listen to."
The mandate of Afghanistan's interim government led by Karzai expires in mid-June.
According to the agreement hammered out in Bonn last year "the Emergency Loya Jirga shall decide on a Transitional Authority, incluing a broad-based transitional administration to lead Afghanistan until such time as a fully representative government can be elected through free and fair elections to be held no later than two years from the date of the convening of the Emergency Loya Jirga."
Call for support
Speaking to reporters Annan called on the world community to support the commission members saying their work was the most important task for the U.N. and the Afghan interim government.
He said the key criteria for selecting candidates to sit on the commission was independence and integrity.
Annan's visit to the Afghan capital is the first by a U.N. chief in more than 40 years and is seen as a morale booster to the post-Taliban government and peacekeepers working there.
Speaking alongside Karzai he said the U.N was determined to implement Afghan reconstruction programs and vowed to ensure that promised international aid comes through soon.
Annan is on the second leg of a trip to the region that began in Pakistan and will also take in Iran.
Officials say his tour is aimed at convincing both nations to cease their long running practice of meddling in internal Afghan politics and show that a stable Afghanistan is in the interests of all its neighbors.
During his visit to Afghanistan Annan will be briefed on U.N. efforts to rebuild the country.
He was met at Kabul's airport Friday morning by a team of mine clearance experts -- a symbol of one of the U.N.'s main tasks in the war-ravaged country.
Afghanistan is one of the most heavily mined nations in the world, with hundreds of people killed or maimed every year by the devices.
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