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Afghan president accepts dismissal of top ministers

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has accepted a decision by parliament to sack two top security ministers. The defense and interior ministers have been blamed for failing to respond to cross-border attacks from Pakistan.

Karzai announced on Sunday that he would accept a parliamentary vote to sack Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Interior Minister Bismillah Mohammadi. He specified, however, that both must remain in their jobs in a temporary capacity until replacements are found.

The Wolesi Jirga, or lower house of parliament, passed a vote of no confidence against both ministers on Saturday, paving the way for their formal dismissal.

Wardak, who has strong support among Afghanistan's Western allies, was ousted by a vote of 146 to 72. In a separate vote of no confidence Mohammadi was removed by a majority of 126 to 90. Both measures needed to 124 to pass.

"Both ministers are disqualified from their positions and we request His Excellency President Karzai to introduce new ministers for these positions as soon as possible," Abdul Raouf Abrahimi, speaker of the lower house of parliament, told reporters.

Cross-border tensions

Afghanistan's Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul, right, and Afghanistan's Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak participate in a media conference after a meeting of NATO foreign and defense ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Thursday, April 19, 2012. Afghanistan was set to continue dominating a second day of ministerial talks at NATO on Thursday. Talks will also focus on the missile shield that the military alliance wants to deploy in Europe. (Foto:Virginia Mayo/AP/dapd) --------------------- FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2010, file photo, Afghan Interior Minister Bismullah Mohammadi speaks during a press event in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Afghan parliament has passed a vote of no confidence against the country's defense and interior ministers on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012. Lawmakers have demanded that President Hamid Karzai appoint replacements for Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Mohammadi (Foto:Musadeq Sadeq, File/AP/dapd)

The dismissal of Wardak and Mohammadi will come as a blow to the fragile Afghan government

Ahead of the vote the ministers were called upon to defend their handling of recent cross-border shelling. Four people were killed last month when more than 300 heavy artillery shells and rockets were fired from Pakistan into Afghanistan's eastern Kunar province. It was the latest in a series of attacks on two eastern Afghan provinces.

Defending his ministry's response to the attacks, Wardak said Afghanistan had sent additional troops and long-range artillery to the mountainous border regions.

"The defense ministry has reinforced army corps 201 and 203 and has specially created another division from which two battalions have already been sent there," Wardak told lawmakers.

"We have also sent long-range artillery and ammunition for use by all army corps," he said, adding that some artillery was being specially refurbished for the eastern border.

Pakistan has denied the allegations of shelling, calling them "incorrect."

"Pakistani troops only respond to and engage militants from where they are attacked or fired upon," one senior military official in Islamabad said.

ccp/tj (AFP, Reuters, AP)