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Govt forms team for parleys with Maoists

The progress of negotiations could be rocky with rifts surfacing among the partners in PM Koirala's coalition government.

india Updated: May 11, 2006 15:59 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

Moving with lightning speed in response to the Maoist guerrillas selecting a team for peace parleys, Nepal's new government on Thursday formed its own team to start negotiations.

However, the progress of negotiations could be rocky with rifts surfacing among the partners in Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's coalition government.

The leaders of Nepal's seven-party alliance held a meeting at Koirala's official residence in Kathmandu on Thursday morning to chalk out their response to the Maoists forming a three-member team to begin peace talks with the government.

The leaders decided the government would form a two-member initial team to open dialogue with the rebels.

Though the names of the government negotiators were not disclosed immediately, it is expected that Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula, who took part in a dialogue with the rebels last year, would head the mini team.

While there were earlier conjectures that the peace talks could start within a week, fresh differences surfaced on Thursday with the third-largest party in reinstated parliament, deposed Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba's Nepali Congress-Democratic, walking away from the meeting abruptly to register its anger.

Deuba's party as well as the Nepal Sadbhavana Party-Anandi have been pressing for appointing as speaker of parliament Chitralekha Yadav, at present deputy speaker, after the post fell empty with the resignation of the earlier presiding officer.

Yadav, a member of Deuba's party, has been conducting the business of the house since it was reinstated last month after four years.

However, the second-largest party in the coalition, Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, is said to be pressing for appointing one of its MPs as speaker.

Thursday's meeting at the residence of ailing Koirala ended on a note of acrimony with the parties deciding not to expand the cabinet till the issue of a new speaker was resolved.

Last month, Koirala swore in a seven-member mini cabinet, keeping most of the major portfolios with himself until the induction of new ministers.

Beset with failing health, the 84-year-old Koirala would find it an uphill task to continue holding several major portfolios like defence, information and communications and law and labour.

The continued infighting among the allies bodes ill for the new government that came to power through a mass uprising against King Gyanendra's absolute rule.

The king had succeeded in dividing the parties with the bait of power-sharing and began ruling himself from 2002.

The bickering for power tarnished the image of the parties with civil society members holding vigils before parliament last month to warn the leaders they would face the revolt the king had faced if they did not work together for peace and welfare of the nation.

First Published: May 11, 2006 15:59 IST