Afghanistan to open "glorious" parliament

Kabul, December 4, 2005 - Afghanistan is preparing a 'glorious' ceremony for the opening this month of its first post-conflict parliament, an official said on Sunday.

President Hamid Karzai will be joined at the ceremony by dignitaries from various foreign countries, Defence Ministry spokesman Mohammad Zahir Azimi said. He would not give a date for the first sitting but another official said it would be on December 19.

The parliament will be Afghanistan's first after more than three decades of war, conflict and internal strife. The 249-member lower house was elected on September 18 in a key step in a transition to democracy. Two-thirds of the upper house seats have been filled and President Karzai is due to announce his choices for the remaining seats in the coming days.