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Maoists give May ultimatum to Nepal government

Nepal's former Maoist guerrillas have now given a fresh ultimatum to their coalition partners, saying they would call an indefinite closure if the country was not declared a republic by May.

world Updated: Apr 30, 2007 06:19 IST

Nepal's former Maoist guerrillas, who joined the seven-party government this month, have now given a fresh ultimatum to their coalition partners, saying they would call an indefinite closure if the country was not declared a republic by May.

Dr Baburam Bhattarai, one of the top leaders of the formerly outlawed party, said at a programme in the capital on Saturday that if the interim parliament failed to abolish monarchy by the first week of the Nepali month of Jeth - May 21 - his party would start a new, unarmed movement on the streets, including continuous strikes.

Accusing foreign governments, that he did not name, of trying to sabotage elections, Bhattarai said Maoists will also step up efforts to forge unity with other pro-republic and communist parties to wrest a victory in parliament.

When the Maoists signed a peace pact with the government last year, both sides had agreed to hold an election to decide if Nepal should remain a monarchy or become a republic.

However, with the Election Commission having ruled out holding the exercise on June 20, as pledged by the government, the guerrillas have begun pressuring their coalition allies to turn Nepal into a republic through parliament.

A new clause says Nepal's 238-year-old monarchy can be abolished if two-third of the MPs agree, feeling that King Gyanendra and his supporters are trying to sabotage the election.

But the plan is being opposed by prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala and his Nepali Congress, the biggest party in the alliance, who want to leave the decision to the election.

The seven-party, Maoist alliance, formed to oppose King Gyanendra's regime, has started fissuring after the fall of the monarch.

While the rebels are accusing Koirala of trying to protect the king, the Nepali Congress says the guerrillas are violating the peace pact and still continuing extortion and intimidation.

The Nepali Congress says the rebels called a transport strike in Birgunj town near the Indian border on Saturday to foil a mass meeting called by his party.

Besides the infighting in the ruling alliance, the Terai plains in southern Nepal have been rocked by continued violence since January, resulting in the death of over 70 people so far.

Various ethnic groups, some of whom are armed, are carrying out different protest programmes in the plains, demanding autonomous states for different communities.

A part of the plains has been crippled by an indefinite closure called from Monday by an ethnic group, the Chure Bhawar Ekta Samaj.

A Samaj activist - Mangal Bahadur Gumachhane - was killed in police firing Saturday as security forces tried to lift the blockade on a leading highway.

In a separate incident, a former Maoist was killed by a rival faction in the plains.

First Published: Apr 29, 2007 14:34 IST