Afghanistan: Parliamentary session ends 30-year legislative drought

Kabul, December 20, 2005 - The ceremony, held under tight security, was attended by President Hamid Karzai, former King Mohammad Zahir Shah, and U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney.

President Karzai swore in 351 new legislators, including former warlords and Taliban officials, former communists, technocrats, and women.

President Karzai's recited the oath of office in Afghanistan's two official languages, Dari and Pashto.

During an emotional speech accompanying the event, President Karzai said that Afghanistan is rising triumphantly from the ashes of invasion. He paid his respects to those Afghans who had died for the cause of Afghan freedom and said they will be never forgotten.

"This land has resisted for thousands of years, and it will remain standing for all eternity," said President Karzai. "Respected representatives of the Afghan people, with the formation of the National Assembly, the main pillars of the Afghan government are now completed under our constitution." President Karzai said the parliament is crucial for the establishment of a safe and secure country, but he added that much work remains.

NATO and the European Union today hailed the parliament's first session. NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer called it "a visible sign that the democratic process is taking hold." The EU called the inauguration a "historic occasion."