Afghanistan

Karzai opens parliament amid protests

Reuters/Ahmad Masood

President Hamid Karzai will open Afghanistan's parliament on Wednesday, after failing in his bid to postpone the move until disputed election results have been investigated. Up to 200 losing candidates continue their sit-in at the presidential palace, after camping out overnight in protest at the president's decision to open the legislature.

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Karzai is due to give a speech to inaugurate the Wolesi Jirga (lower house) at a ceremony also attended by government ministers, foreign diplomats and the commander of the US-led NATO force, General David Petraeus.

Thousands of police and soldiers have been deployed and checkpoints and roadblocks set up across Kabul to prevent potential attacks by rebels.

Dossier: AfPak news and analysis

The Afghan president agreed on Tuesday to open parliament, following pressure from MPs backed by the UN and US.

The opening was originally set for Sunday, but Karzai announced it would be delayed by a month while a special tribunal investigated claims of irregularities in September's parliamentary elections.

Karzai has blamed "foreign hands" for forcing him to go ahead with the opening despite concerns over the disputed vote.

In a statement on Tuesday, he insisted that winning MPs had given him their written assurance that they will recognise the eventual ruling of the election tribunal.

However, successful candidates have previously said that the special tribunal is unconstitutional and that regular courts should process claims of election fraud.

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