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Afghan parliament rejects most of Karzai's nominees

KABUL, Afghanistan - The Afghan parliament delivered another rebuke to President Hamid Karzai yesterday when it rejected 10 of the 17 ministers he proposed on his second try at forming a government - the latest sign that his fraud-tainted election victory has weakened his leadership.

Karzai secured parliamentary approval for his longtime national security aide, Zalmay Roussel, as foreign minister. He also won approval for two other key posts - justice and counter-narcotics. But he went down to defeat in a host of areas that affect the daily lives of Afghans - from health to telecommunications.

For a country in a U.S.-backed war of survival against a fast-spreading Taliban Islamist insurgency, the vote will slow the establishment of an effective government, but it also signaled the first democratic stirrings in a body that previously had achieved little of note.

Members of parliament said they voted down candidates who were closely affiliated with former warlords or were unknown here. But some of those defeated had been viewed with high esteem by leading figures.

"I was in tears," said Sima Samar, director of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, referring to the defeat of two women candidates. "I'm really distressed that two good ones lost." She told McClatchy that Karzai hadn't thrown sufficient support behind Soraya Dalil, a Harvard graduate nominated as health minister, and Palwasha Hassan, nominated for the ministry of women's affairs.

Samar was critical of Karzai's successful pick for the Justice Ministry, Habibullah Ghalib, as "a backwards step," and European officials are strongly concerned that Zarar Ahmad Moqbel is now minister of counter-narcotics.

The voting by secret ballot took about five hours to complete, and the laborious hand count was broadcast live on radio and television.

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