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Karzai delays opening of parliament session

Afghan President Hamid Karzai delayed parliament's opening session by one month Wednesday so that a controversial tribunal he has backed can continue its investigation into election fraud.

The move throws further uncertainty on the willingness of Karzai's government to follow its own laws. The tribunal, appointed by Karzai's Supreme Court, is considered unconstitutional by both the international community and the electoral bodies who organized and oversaw September's legislative elections.

It is generally believed that Karzai is unhappy with the new parliament -- given his continued backing of investigations -- and thinks fraud held down voter turnout among his fellow ethnic Pashtuns.

Many had hoped that a free and fair parliamentary election would demonstrate Karzai's commitment to fight cronyism and corruption a year after an international outcry over a fraud-marred presidential vote that resulted in his own re-election.

Instead, the parliamentary ballot was tainted by familiar allegations of fraud and voter intimidation, and debates since then over who gets to decide the final results have cast even more doubt on the process.

Winning candidates say Karzai has promised them he will defend the issued results. But there are also hundreds of losing candidates in the election, in which 2,500 contenders ran for 249 seats. Many of the losers say Karzai told them he believes they were wronged and that he will do everything to support further investigations.

On Wednesday, a roadside bombing killed 13 civilians in eastern Paktika province, while four border policemen were killed in a roadside bomb blast in southern Zabul province.

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