After 20 days of often passionate discussions, the Loya Jirga or grand assembly on Saturday stood just one word away from final agreement on the document which will pave the way for Afghanistan's first democratic elections. 

While most of the 160 articles in the document have already been approved without opposition, a handful have proved difficult to reach consensus on, including issues on the national language and whether ministers can hold dual citizenship. 

A representative group drawn from the 502 delegates has been meeting international officials to sort out these issues after about 200 delegates boycotted Thursday's vote on five contentious articles in the draft, alleging that the document had been tampered with. 

"If they're all true then I'm very saddened with all these decisions they make behind closed dooors"

Hakim Nurzai,
Pashtun delegate

Late on Saturday, the representative group had agreed on everything but the description of the "official" languages.

While some want Uzbek to be the third official language for the country after Pashtu and Dari, others say it should only be an official language in the areas in which it is widely spoken.

"We have reached an agreement on the whole constitution but there is only one word remaining," said Loya Jirga Chairman Sebghat Allah Mujadidi. 

The director of the secretariat for the Loya Jirga, Faruq
Wardak, said the word in dispute was "official" as it was used in relation to national languages. 

Explosion

An explosion went off near the Loya Jirga site early on Sunday, but there were no reports of casualties or damage.

Afghan police were investigating the blast, one of a series in
Kabul during the loya jirga which the ousted Taliban have threatened to disrupt. Six people were killed in a blast on 28 December.

On Saturday, delegates resolved a dispute over whether ministers should be allowed dual citizenship, finally deciding that ministers would be able to hold two passports for the next five years.

"If they're all true then I'm very saddened with all these decisions they make behind closed dooors," said Pashtun delegate Hakim Nurzai on hearing that decisions have been made on most of the controversial issues. 

A delegate from Kabul and a member of the boycotting group, Waquif Hakimi, said earlier on Saturday that he did not know what decisions had been reached. 

"It's too early to comment on what has been resolved and what remains (to be resolved), but what I can tell you is that the major things have been resolved"

Safia Siddiqi,
Deputy chairwoman of Loya Jirga

"We don't know exactly what is going on. They have told us they have reached agreement almost on everything but this has been only agreements in speeches nothing in written documents. We will believe it when the chairman Mujaddidi announces it and it comes in a written document." 

Delegates were due to meet on Sunday morning to reach a final agreement on the document, but the process for its ratification is unclear. 

"It's too early to comment on what has been resolved and what remains (to be resolved), but what I can tell you is that the major things have been resolved," Safia Siddiqi, deputy chairwoman of the Loya Jirga told reporters.

Earlier on Saturday, President Hamid Karzai called on the hundreds of delegates who have boycotted the vote on the new constitution to work towards consensus, in a move aimed at dampening bitter ethnic rivalries.

"The purpose is to have a constitution that reflects the views
and considerations and interests of all the people of Afghanistan. 

"Therefore, it is important to have a constitution that comes with near consensus, if not total consensus," Karzai told reporters at the presidential palace.