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Afghan Parliament Opens

Members of Afghanistan's new parliament have been sworn in. Parliament member Shukria Barakzai says the swearing-in "is an historic moment for the people of Afghanistan."

Elections to fill the two-hundred-forty-nine seats in the lower chamber of parliament were held in September. Afghans also elected provincial councils. Provincial council members chose representatives to fill two-thirds of the one-hundred-two seats in the parliament's upper chamber. Afghan President Hamid Karzai selected the remaining third, as required by the Afghan constitution.

Afghanistan had been without a parliament since 1973. A series of coups, invasion and a ten-year occupation by the Soviet Union, followed by civil war and oppressive rule by the Taleban regime, led to the deaths of more than one million Afghans. Rebuilding Afghanistan’s political institutions has been as important a task as repairing the physical damage from twenty-three years of war.

President Karzai says, "The formation of parliament has rescued the destiny of the people and the history of our country." But Mr. Karzai says there is still a long way to go "towards peace, stability, and prosperity."

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney attended the Afghan parliament's opening session. He says, "Once again, in free elections, the Afghan people have shown the world their determination to chart their own destiny. In this journey of freedom and progress," he says, Afghanistan "will continue to have the full support of America and our coalition."

U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli says that Afghans are making real progress:

"You just look at what's happened. You've had the election of a president. You've had a constitution drafted and approved. You've had parliamentary elections throughout the country with thousands of voting booths and fifty-three percent, I believe, of the people voting; forty percent of whom are women."

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says, "Over the past four years, Afghans have worked hard to transform their country into a new democracy." "Afghanistan's legislators," she says, "represent the Afghan people's aspirations to build a peaceful country with democratic institutions and an improving quality of life." The United States "applaud[s] the Afghan people and government on this momentous occasion."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.