- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 19, 2002

KABUL, Afghanistan Two rockets were fired late yesterday into the center of Kabul, exploding about one block from the heavily fortified U.S. Embassy compound, Afghan soldiers said.
There were no reports of casualties, but one house, usually occupied by Japanese Embassy officials, was slightly damaged when a rocket hit the garage door. The house was empty at the time of the attack.
The other rocket hit the top of a house about one block from the U.S. Embassy a secure compound with sandbag bunkers set up on every corner. Barbed wire and giant steel gates protect the grounds. U.S. special forces rushed to the site of the blast.
The blasts were the first such incident since the start of the grand national assembly, or loya jirga, which opened June 11 to choose a new government.
International peacekeepers had warned of violence during the loya jirga meeting, perhaps from Taliban and al Qaeda fugitives or others seeking to destabilize the situation.
Meanwhile, the United States interceded yesterday in the selection of a new Afghan government, telling President Hamid Karzai that his Cabinet must win approval of the grand council. Mr. Karzai delayed announcing his lineup for another day.
With the loya jirga progressing little in deciding on a government, Mr. Karzai's spokesman, Tayyab Jawad, said Monday that the Cabinet members would not be submitted for approval to the assembly. That would avoid a potentially bitter floor fight.
However, President Bush's special envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, said that failing to win assembly approval would violate terms of an agreement in December that established the formula for Afghanistan to rebuild institutions after the collapse of the Taliban.
"People are worried they came here for nothing," Mr. Khalilzad told reporters. "That's not right. The key personnel will be presented to the loya jirga and have to be approved by the loya jirga. Whoever says approval is not needed has spoken mistakenly. As the international community, we were involved in it, and we will insist on it."
During the afternoon session, Mr. Karzai swept into the giant white tent where the loya jirga meets and told the 1,650 delegates that he was not ready to announce his Cabinet. "Give me one more day," he requested.
Delegates grumbled at the delay in a convention that opened a day late and was supposed to have ended Sunday.
Selecting Cabinet members is perhaps the most politically charged decision the loya jirga will make. During the meeting in December in Bonn, Mr. Karzai, an ethnic Pashtun, was chosen to lead an interim administration.
However, most of the power ended up in the hands of ethnic Tajiks from the Panjshir Valley who dominated the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance.
Yesterday, loya jirga Chairman Ismail Qasim Yar offered a blueprint for the country's legislature, saying it would draw representatives from each province and include others chosen from among the delegates to the loya jirga.

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