KABUL - Afghan President Hamid Karzai promised on Sunday his new cabinet would be held to account following mounting criticism over graft in his government.
Karzai's nominations for 23 ministerial positions were presented to parliament for approval on Saturday, a month after his re-election was confirmed following an August 20 poll which was marred by rampant fraud.
The cabinet nominations are seen as the president's first test since his re-election to show he is serious about clamping down on corruption after coming under intense pressure from Western countries whose funds and troops support his government.
Washington is sending 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan to try to quell a strengthening Taliban insurgency but U.S. officials acknowledge more troops can only be effective if the Afghan government has the trust of its own people.
Some Western leaders hailed the new line-up that has kept most of the technocrats favored by the West in top positions. But some Afghan lawmakers hoping to see more new faces said the nominations amounted to a list of recycled figures.
Speaking at a news conference alongside Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme in Kabul on Sunday, Karzai defended his choice, saying nearly half of the nominees were new and that all ministers would be held to account for any corruption.
I can assure that all the newly introduced ministers, and those who have been with me in the past, will be held accountable on any issue related to corruption, Karzai told reporters.
And I will be accountable before the nation of Afghanistan for preventing it (corruption) and for solving this problem.
Karzai said he had done his best to come up with professional ministers in the cabinet, which he said reflected Afghanistan's diverse make-up and promised to include more women.
Out of the 23 nominations, only one woman was put forward, to head the Ministry for Women's Affairs. Karzai said he was looking at forming a new ministry to tackle illiteracy which would be run by a woman and some deputy posts would also be given to women.
Parliament has been debating Karzai's nominations and all nominees must receive a vote of confidence before they can take up their post.
(Editing by Jonathon Burch and Alison Williams)