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Nepal prime minister resigns amid row over army chief

Nepal prime minister resigns amid row over army chief
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First Published: Tue, May 05 2009. 12 56 AM IST

National crisis: Nepal premier Pushpa Kamal Dahal announces his resignation during a nationwide broadcast in Kathmandu. Deepa Shrestha / Reuters
National crisis: Nepal premier Pushpa Kamal Dahal announces his resignation during a nationwide broadcast in Kathmandu. Deepa Shrestha / Reuters
Updated: Tue, May 05 2009. 12 56 AM IST
Bangalore/Sydney: Nepal prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda), the country’s former rebel leader, announced his resignation after his firing of the army chief split the coalition government and sparked calls for street protests.
“The prime minister has resigned from his post,” information minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara said in a phone interview from the capital, Kathmandu.
National crisis: Nepal premier Pushpa Kamal Dahal announces his resignation during a nationwide broadcast in Kathmandu. Deepa Shrestha / Reuters
Dahal’s Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) won elections last year after ending a 10-year insurgency under a 2006 accord. General Rookmand Katawal, the army chief, was fired on Sunday in a dispute over the integration of former rebels into the military envisaged under the peace accord.
President Ram Baran Yadav late on Sunday overturned the government’s decision and told Katawal to remain in his post, Mahara said.
Dahal held an emergency meeting with top members of his Maoist party and later called a cabinet meeting before announcing his resignation, Mahara said.
The Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) pulled its six ministers from the cabinet on Sunday, saying Dahal took “unilateral decisions,” violating pledges to consult on matters of national importance, Nepalnews.com said. The President’s move is an “attack on this infant democracy and the peace process,” Dahal said in a televised address and it has led to a “national crisis.” Dahal said he resigned to “protect democracy and peace”.
The government appointed Lieutenant General Kul Bahadur Khadka, Katawal’s second-in-command, as the new chief of staff. The peace process is in danger of being derailed, according to Mahara. “The President’s order is unconstitutional and illegal. We will organize protests in both the parliament and on the streets,” he said.
Nepali Congress, the main opposition and the country’s oldest party, said it will take its protest to the streets. The Sadbhawama Party’s sole minister also quit the cabinet, Nepalnews.com reported.
A new government could be formed within two to three days with Nepali Congress either being a part of the administration or supporting it from outside, Shekhar Koirala, a Nepali Congress leader, told CNN-IBN television channel.
Nepali Congress was hoping for a national government and would like the Maoists to join, he said. “A national unity government is the only viable option,” Sagar Prasai, deputy country representative of Asia Foundation, a non-profit organization, said in a phone interview from Kathmandu. “It is very difficult for an alternative government by other parties and without the Maoists to be formed.”
The Maoists sent 23,000 fighters into camps under the 2006 peace accord that provides for their rehabilitation and a chance to join the army. The Maoists objected to the army carrying out a recruitment campaign this year that brought 2,800 new service personnel into the armed forces.
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First Published: Tue, May 05 2009. 12 56 AM IST