KABUL, Dec 23 (AP): The newly elected chairman of Afghanistan's parliament has said he will resign as leader of the opposition and will support US-backed President Hamid Karzai's efforts to rebuild the country after a quarter century of war.
The announcement by Mohammad Yunus Qanuni at a press conference late Thursday was a major boost for Karzai, who hopes to form alliances between his government and rival ethnic and political factions in the legislature.
Qanuni was one of Karzai's primary political rivals, having finished second to him in the presidential elections in October last year. He resigned his post of education minister, which he was given by Karzai, so that he could challenge Karzai for the presidency. He was narrowly elected chairman of the assembly in a vote Wednesday.
He said the new opposition leader would be Burhanuddin Rabbani, a fellow ethnic Tajik and former president during a destructive civil war in the 1990s. The two men are old friends and Rabbani withdrew his own candidacy for the chairmanship of the parliament last week in favour of the younger Qanuni.
The new parliament convened Monday, three months after legislative elections.
Afghanistan had no elected national assembly since 1973, after which coups and a Soviet invasion plunged the country into decades of chaos that killed than 1 million people. That period was followed by the rule of the Islamic extremist Taliban militia.
Its opening marked Afghanistan's final step in its transition to democracy after US-led forces ousted the Taliban regime for sheltering Osama bin Laden. But the legislature includes many regional strongmen, raising concerns over whether it can be a positive political force.