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Fresh feud in Nepal over envoy appointments

Maoist students called a shutdown in Kathmandu to protest the government's arbitrary decision to appoint envoys to 14 countries.

india Updated: Dec 19, 2006 13:00 IST

Fresh feud erupted in Nepal on Tuesday with Maoist students calling a shutdown in Kathmandu valley to protest what they called the government's "arbitrary" decision to appoint envoys to 14 countries.

"The government's decision to appoint ambassadors and proceed with other appointments not only goes against the spirit of the agreement between our party and the seven-party alliance but is also a grave conspiracy to affect future agreements," Maoist spokesperson and former MP Krishna Bahadur Mahara said in a statement minutes after the official decision became public.

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala held a special meeting of his cabinet on Monday, where the names of 14 ambassadors were approved.

These include appointments to key countries like India, the US and Britain. The posts have been lying vacant since the fall of King Gyanendra's government in April, when the royal appointees were recalled from Nepali missions abroad.

Besides the 14 ambassadors, the government also named a new permanent representative for the UN in Geneva and a new chief as well as four members for the National Human Rights Commission.

The new appointees include senior leaders from the ruling parties, bureaucrats and career diplomats. Koirala and his Nepali Congress party's influence was clear in the new nominations with his niece and former deputy prime minister Shailaja Acharya being named as the new ambassador to India, and the PM's foreign affairs adviser Dr Suresh Chalise being earmarked for Washington.

The nominees will be appointed formally once the decision is approved by the concerned parliamentary committee.

The government action triggered a strong reaction from the Maoists who said they should have been consulted.

Stepping up pressure on the government, the student wing of the Maoists, announced a six-hour token Kathmandu valley closure from 10 am on Tuesday.

Mahara said the move went against the ceasefire pact, which says an issue of national importance will be agreed upon only when both sides reach an agreement.

The new move, coming days after both sides broke a deadlock to sign a new Constitution for Nepal, has created consternation and anger among rebels who Monday postponed a key meeting of their leadership to discuss the development.

The decision also created a rift among the ruling parties with People's Front Nepal expressing its strong opposition.

Front chief Amik Sherchan, who is also deputy prime minister and health minister, said he walked out of the cabinet meeting to register his party's disapproval.

The fresh dissent comes after a clash between the rebels and security forces in southern Nepal on Monday that left five guerrillas and two policemen injured.

The clash occurred in Mahottari district when the rebels tried to intimidate a police post into leaving.

The guerrillas have been repeatedly trying to prevent police posts from being re-deployed.

First Published: Dec 19, 2006 13:00 IST