Afghanistan delays peace assembly for second time

A conference of Afghan leaders has been delayed for a second time.

Kabul: A key component of President Hamid Karzai`s plans to bring an end to the insurgency in Afghanistan, a conference of national leaders, has been delayed for a second time, an official said on Monday.

The consultative peace jirga, which aims to bring about 1,200 community and political representatives to Kabul, will be held from June 02, said Najeeb Ameen the deputy director of policy for the meeting.

It had been scheduled for May 29, after the government earlier said that it would be held in late April or early May.

Ameen said the reasons for the delay were "technical and logistical”, as so many people would be attending.

"We will have a two-day registration of all participants who arrive from all over the country on May 29 and 30. This will be followed by a two-day orientation programme on May 31 and June 01," he said.

"The actual jirga of all the participants will take place on June 02."

Karzai pledged to hold the jirga as part of his programme of speeding up an end to the war that is now in its ninth year and has deployed around 130,000 US and NATO troops to the country.

His Western backers, notably the United States and Britain, have emphasised their support for the jirga as an important milestone in Karzai`s plans to bring peace, clean government and sustainable development to Afghanistan.

US President Barack Obama and British Foreign Minister William Hague have also mentioned an international conference slated to be held in Kabul in July and a parliamentary election scheduled for September as events that will show Karzai is making political progress.

Participants in the peace jirga are expected to discuss the prospect of opening a dialogue with the Taliban on ending the conflict, which is becoming increasingly unpopular with the Western public.

No representatives of the Taliban have been invited to attend the jirga although officials have said they will not be turned away if they do turn up.

Bureau Report

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