Tags: Karzai | tribal | peace | jirga

Karzai Postpones Tribal 'Peace Jirga'

Wednesday, 21 Apr 2010 10:00 AM


KABUL - A traditional "peace jirga" of Afghanistan's tribal and community leaders has been delayed until late May because of clashes in the president's travel schedule, an official told AFP on Wednesday.

The jirga, or meeting, aims to bring together leaders from across Afghanistan, representing the country's complicated mix of ethnic, tribal, geographic and gender interests.

The exact new date has not yet been set, said Masoom Stanikzai, adviser to the president on internal security.

"The decision (of the jirga preparatory committee) is that it will be held in the last week of May," he told AFP.

President Hamid Karzai's travel schedule -- which includes a planned May 10-13 visit to Washington -- was one major factor, Stanikzai said.

"It would put a lot of pressure on his schedule," he said.

He said members of parliament had also requested a delay because the original May 2-4 dates coincided with the period of candidate registration for the September parliamentary polls.

Registration started on Tuesday.

Thousands of people are expected to attend the jirga to discuss the main issues facing the fractious country in the context of Karzai's plans to bring peace and development after more than eight years of war.

Western diplomats in Kabul said earlier that the decision had been made on Sunday to reschedule the jirga to begin May 20.

Richard Holbrooke, the US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, was quoted by US media as saying the change had been made so the meeting could be held after Karzai's Washington trip.

Holbrooke was quoted by the Washington Post newspaper as saying the meeting, which could also include "insurgent leaders", had been postponed to May 20.

A European diplomat said one reason for the delay was that Karzai "is still lagging behind on outreach to different tribal leaders".

"The Obama visit might just be an excuse," he told AFP on condition of anonymity.

NATO's senior civilian representative to Afghanistan, Mark Sedwill, told reporters on Tuesday that the jirga had the backing of the international community.

"It is an important initiative, it has the support of the whole of the international community," he said, adding it could be a step on the road to peace for the war-torn country.

He said the meeting could bring support from across the country for the reconciliation of insurgent fighters and provide the opportunity for insurgents to reintegrate into society.

Afghanistan is mired in a war with Taliban-led insurgents, with the 126,000 NATO and US troops due to rise to 150,000 by August in an effort to quell the rebellion before the September parliamentary elections.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.







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