Afghanistan's parliament has thrown out more than half of President Hamid Karzai's cabinet nominees for a second time, refusing to accept notorious warlords - and two women - as government ministers.
Only seven of Mr Karzai's 17 choices were approved at the weekend by the 224 representatives in Afghan's parliament, further complicating the president's efforts to appease US-led occupation forces' demands for a strong government to counter a Taliban resurgence.
Two weeks previously, parliament rejected most of Mr Karzai's first choice of cabinet ministers, including women nominees, and representatives again refused to vote for two women picked by the president to run the Health Department and the Ministry of Women's Affairs.
Representative Mohammad Ali Sitigh insisted that the two women nominees who were rejected were well-qualified and lamented that "unfortunately, we have some lawmakers who, even if they see a woman who is very active, talented and well-educated, still can't vote for a woman."
Nominees for ministers of higher education, commerce, transport, public works, refugee affairs and border and tribal affairs were also rejected, although Mr Karzai's national security adviser Zalmay Rasoul was confirmed as foreign minister.
But notorious warlord Ismail Khan, who was accused of implementing repressive laws against women while governor of the western province of Herat, was rejected, while one woman, Amina Afzali, was eventually approved as Minister of the martyred and disabled.
US-backed candidates for the crucial interior, defence and finance portfolios were approved earlier in January.
"The rejection of the majority of the list shows that the people of Afghanistan are not happy with the work of the government," charged Parliamentary Deputy Speaker Mirwais Yasiny.
"It will disrupt the work of the government and is not good for the future and the fate of the country," he emphasised.
Mr Karzai's office issued a statement "regretting" the votes and insisted that his nominees had been chosen for "their talent, expertise and national participation."
But representative Mohammad Ershad countered that the cabinet nominees lacked the credentials to serve and had been chosen to pay back political supporters who helped the president's campaign during the controversial election last year.
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