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Nepal parties try to form coalition Govt

Nepal's political parties were locked in meetings on Friday in a bid to form a new coalition government to pull this Himalayan nation out of a crisis sparked by the resignation of the Prime Minister.

world Updated: May 08, 2009 12:55 IST

Nepal's political parties were locked in meetings on Friday in a bid to form a new coalition government to pull this Himalayan nation out of a crisis sparked by the resignation of the Prime Minister.

President Ram Baran Yadav has asked the political parties to set up the new government and name a new prime minister by Saturday, a deadline party leaders say is unrealistic if not impossible. Nepal's Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal _ leader of the Maoist rebels who laid down arms three years ago _ sparked a national crisis on Monday when he resigned and pulled his party from the ruling coalition in protest over the president overruling his decision to fire army chief Rookmangud Katawal.

The Maoists have been protesting both in the streets and in parliament since then.

The Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist), which is likely to lead the new coalition, said it was holding a meeting of its top party leaders on Friday to discuss strategy. "Our priority will be to set up the new government including all the major political parties," the party's general secretary Iswor Pokhrel said. "However, it is unlikely we will reach agreement by Saturday."

Other political parties agreed that that nothing would be finalized in the next day.

"It is impossible to agree and set up the government that soon," said Krishna Sitaula of the Nepali Congress party. Both parties agree it is necessary to find a spot for the Maoists in the new government. The Maoists _ who are formally known as the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) _ hold the most seats in the 601-member Constituent Assembly but do not have a majority. The Maoists, however, have said they will only join the new government if the president reverses his decision on firing the army chief and have warned they will continue to demonstrate to block a new prime minister from being voted in. They have stayed away from the crisis talks aimed at forming a new government. It technically would be possible to form a government without the Maoists, who have 238 assembly members to the Nepali Congress' 114 and the 109 of the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist). The rest of the seats are divided between smaller parties who are still undecided on who they would support. But sidelining the Maoists could further rock the country's fragile stability _ achieved after Maoist guerrillas ended their 10-year insurgency, laying down their arms and joining a political peace process.

As part of that process, former rebels were supposed to be integrated into the national army, but many are still confined to their UN-monitored barracks.

Dahal, a former insurgent leader, blamed the army chief for the continued sequestering of his fighters.