KABUL (PAN): The newly-appointed presidential spokesman, Waheed Omar, has said new cabinet ministers were introduced to parliament after a flurry of consultations with the various state institutions. No compromise was struck in unveiling of the 23-member cabinet, including a dozen sitting ministers and 11 new faces, he told a press conference here on Saturday. Omar said 60 percent of members were new faces. Competence and performance were the main consideration in retention of acting ministers, insisted the spokesman, who ruled out any role for the international community in the formation of the cabinet. President Hamid Karzai exercised his constitutional discretion in choosing the new cabinet that it was based on no expediency, whatsoever, the presidential aide argued. "The president selects members for the cabinet and parliament approves them." He reiterated the president took into account Afghanistan's socio-political conditions and consulted with relevant state organs as well as some international institutions. In order to have a cabinet acceptable to all, he continued, Karzai talked to political parties and civil society groups. Scotching speculation about the inclusion of Balkh Governor Ata Mohammad Noor and Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostam in the incoming government, he said: "I can't say anything about their future role in the cabinet." More cabinet picks were there if some of nominees failed to get trust vote from lawmakers, he explained. But he hoped all ministers would receive votes of confidence. None of the nominees had dual nationality, a disqualification for a minister, he said. About the minister for urban development, who was not introduced to the Wolesi Jirga on Saturday, he said the selection for this portfolio required more attention and hence the delay. With regard to the bifurcation of the Ministry of Martyrs, Disabled, Labour and Social Affairs into two (Martyrs and Disabled and Labour and Social Affairs), he claimed the move was essential. However, he did not elaborate on the need for bifurcation. Omar acknowledged the inclusion of fewer women in the new cabinet and said the appointments were essentially based on talent rather than gender. He was optimistic about women's inclusion in the cabinet in the future. ss/mud

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