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Singh tells Nepal king to restore democracy

The 40-minute one-on-one meeting between the two leaders was held on sidelines of the 13th SAARC summit.

india Updated: Nov 13, 2005 13:01 IST

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday asked Nepal King Gyanendra to restore multi-party democracy in the Himalayan kingdom at the earliest.

In their 40-minute one-on-one meeting on the sidelines of the 13th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit, Manmohan Singh told the monarch to take concrete steps to restore democracy in his country.

"Manmohan Singh told Gyanendra that restoration of democracy is only possible if the king involves political parties in the process," an official spokesman told reporters.

The official said the king assured the prime minister that he was committed to the task and would involve the political parties in the process to restore multi-party democracy as soon as possible.

Manmohan Singh and Gyanendra also agreed to work to maintain the traditionally close ties between the two neighbours.

Under pressure from the international community to restore democracy, Gyanendra had on Saturday used the SAARC forum to promise general elections in Nepal by April 2007.

"We know that there cannot be a meaningful exercise in democracy without elections. We have asked the Election Commission to make necessary preparations to hold general elections by April 2007," the king said in his inaugural speech to the two-day summit that began on Saturday.

The king said the improved security situation in Nepal had allowed Kathmandu to announce a date for municipal elections.

"The municipal elections are scheduled for February 8, 2006. We hope the successful completion of municipal elections will create an environment conducive to conducting general elections," he said.

The king had taken over the reins of power in February after sacking an elected government, accusing it of factional infighting and failing in its duty to protect democracy. He subsequently clamped press censorship.

During their last meeting at the Afro-Asian Summit in Jakarta in May this year, Manmohan Singh told the king that he needed to reach out to the political parties for reconciliation.

The two-day summit is being attended by leaders of all seven-member countries -- India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

First Published: Nov 13, 2005 11:03 IST