Faced with the threat of a new revolt from the Maoist guerrillas and a warning by his allies that they would quit the coalition government, Nepal's Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala Friday ruled out the possibility of a split and said the ongoing peace talks with the rebels would be successful.
The ailing, octogenarian prime minister, who has come under sharp criticism from the partners in the seven-party ruling alliance, human rights activists, the Maoists and even his own party men, said he would not rise to adverse criticism from different quarters but remain committed to bringing peace to his insurgency-afflicted nation and find a political solution through peaceful negotiations.
The veteran politician used his meeting with a media delegation Friday to obliquely answer the volley of criticism levelled at him this week from different quarters.
Earlier this week, Madhav Kumar Nepal, chief of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, the second largest party in the coalition government, had given a public warning that his party would quit the alliance if the prime minister continued to behave autocratically.
A junior communist party in the alliance, People's Front Nepal, too has expressed dissatisfaction with the government's style of functioning and criticised several major decisions taken by it.
The government allies as well as human rights activists have been vocal against Koirala appointing as the chief of Nepal Army a senior official accused of human rights violations and trying to suppress public protests during King Gyanendra's direct rule.
The Maoists have been accusing Koirala of conspiring with the king to save the monarchy and scuttle the peace parleys.
They have also been accusing the government of trying to obtain arms from abroad in violation of a pact with them that forbids both sides from amassing weapons and soldiers during the ongoing ceasefire.
"I want a tiny and under-developed country like Nepal to set a precedent in the world - that of resolving the insurgency through peaceful dialogue," Koirala told the media delegation. "I am optimistic the talks would be successful."
Though negotiations between the government and the guerrillas have deadlocked after three rounds and the rebels are pressuring the alliance to hold the next round soon and resolve the remaining contentious issues, Koirala, however, sidestepped the question when the talks would be held next.
"I am in direct and indirect touch with Maoist chief Prachanda," he said. "I remain committed to the mandate given by the people, and to their aspiration for peace."
While Koirala said he remained optimistic about peace, an opinion poll conducted by a local weekly, the Nepali Times, however, predicted the truce would break down.
"This week, nearly six months after the April uprising, the Nepali public have for the first time turned pessimistic about the chances of a return to peace," the weekly said in its editorial Friday.
"More than 57 per cent of the 4455 who voted believe the ceasefire wouldn't last beyond Tihar (one of Nepal's biggest festivals, corresponding to India's Diwali, that is celebrated in October-November).