Resignations due to rocket attacks, says Afghan minister

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The resignations of Afghanistan's interior minister and head of security were connected to rocket attacks on a "peace jirga" in Kabul last week, the country's finance minister confirmed on Monday.

"There was a serious security incident in the peace jirga for which their agencies had the prime responsibility," Omar Zakhilwal said at a press conference in the Spanish capital.

The minister said he was "extremely sad" for his two "close friends", but the unprecedented resignations would "set a standard for ministers" regarding efficacy and responsibility.

Interior minister Hanif Atmar and the chief of the National Directorate of Security, Amrullah Saleh, resigned on Sunday after the attack on the opening of the jirga.

The traditional gathering of 1,600 delegates from tribes and other walks of life in a giant tent in Kabul was aimed at finding a way to end the war in Afghanistan.

Wearing burkas and carrying explosives and rocket launchers, the Taliban combatants attempted to distrupt the opening of the jirga while the president, Hamid Karzai, was talking.

In a press conference, Saleh indicated there were "dozens of reasons" for his resignation, suggesting Karzai had lost confidence in his ability to protect the country.

But according to the presidential office, Karzai accepted their resignations after they failed to provide a convincing explanation for the attack on the jirga.

The US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, said on Monday in Madrid that the resignations were "an internal matter" that were "unlikely to have a profound impact" on the international community's commitment to Afghanistan.

Zakhilwal was in Madrid along with a special envoy from Pakistan for informal talks on peace efforts in the war-torn region hosted by Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos.

© 2010 AFP

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