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Nepal Prince's peccadillo

Prince Paras, known less for his princely virtues, hit the headlines for a reported involvement in a 'beastly' tale.

india Updated: Mar 20, 2006 14:43 IST

Nepal's Crown Prince Paras, known more for his peccadilloes than princely virtues, hit the headlines on Monday for a reported involvement in a "beastly" tale.

As the 35-year-old heir to the throne of Nepal left for Vienna on Sunday with his wife, Crown Princess Himani, questions were being raised about the foreign jaunt.

According to the state media, which blindly follows the commands of the handpicked ministers who themselves obey King Gyanendra unquestioningly, the royal couple were invited to the European city by Austrian chancellor Wolfgang Schusel.

However, according to the local media, Schusel did not issue an invite.

The invitation reportedly came from an Austrian zoo as a way of showing appreciation for the Nepal government's gift of two one-horned rhinos.

Schusel's only connection is that he would be present at the rhino handover ceremony, the Kathmandu Post reported on Monday.

The decision to gift the rhinos, an endangered species, has drawn fire from the Nepal Forum of Environmental Journalists, an independent media body that has questioned the decision.

The Post said the royal entourage also included Foreign Minister Ramesh Nath Pandey and nearly two-dozen officials.

Besides Vienna, the team will also visit France and the UAE, whose governments have not issued any invitation to the prince known for his quick temper and company of friends who are as quick with their fists.

The money that the trip would cost the cash-strapped government is also being questioned by the local independent media.

According to the Post, the finance ministry had allocated Nepali Rs 90 million in its budget for the current fiscal for high-level visits. But this money has all been used up.

Paras' joy ride is estimated to cost Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the world, Nepali Rs 60 million, the newspaper said.

To rustle up the money, the desperate finance ministry had to divert funds from other allocations, the report said.

And that's not all.

The trip has also disrupted the flights of the national carrier, the Royal Nepalese Airlines.

Since it possesses only two Boeings, one of which has been pressed into the service of the royal entourage, the cash-strapped carrier had to postpone its Dubai flight to Sunday from Friday, the Post reported.