Nepal in `last chance` for peace: PM

The 57-year-old engineer`s elevation to prime minister has raised new hopes for the deeply-divided country`s unification.

Kathmandu: Nepal`s new Prime Minister used his first public address on Friday to warn that the nation is being given its "last chance" to unite in peace or face being drawn back into armed conflict.

Baburam Bhattarai, elected three weeks ago, said in the televised speech the country was "standing at the juncture of history" and urged opposition parties to help complete the peace process and write a new constitution.

"It`s not possible to accomplish all the tasks that the previous government left us," the Maoist premier said.

"But if there is trust, cooperation and consensus among political parties, we are committed to complete the remaining tasks. I hope that the political parties will help this government in this crucial task."

The 57-year-old engineer`s elevation to prime minister has raised new hopes for the deeply-divided country`s unification.

He replaces Jhala Nath Khanal, who resigned just six months after taking the job at the end of seven months of stalemate during which parliament had to vote 17 times before it could agree on its next prime minister.

Nepal`s fragile political infrastructure has been fractured by bitter internecine quarrelling, revolving-door governments and 10 years of civil war.

Maoist rebels fought the government in a bloody conflict from 1996-2006 which left 16,000 dead before the insurgency turned to mainstream politics and swept to power in elections in 2008.

A new parliament was tasked with writing a constitution for the nascent republic that year, after it ditched its monarchy, but political rivalries have derailed the process numerous times.

"This is our last chance," said Bhattarai, who has pledged to complete the twin tasks of concluding the peace process and writing the new constitution by the expiry of the current Parliament on November 14.

"We are standing at the juncture of history. The next two-and-a half months will be more exciting than the past six years. We will either move forward or plunge into the vicious cycle of conflict. There is no third option."

Bhattarai`s brief stint as finance minister in the Maoist-led government that fell in May 2009 earned him accolades for a rise in revenue collection in one of the world`s poorest countries.

He was elected after securing the support of five regional parties, and appointed six new ministers on Thursday, two from his party and the remaining from his coalition partners.

"Let us not engage in unnecessary debate. No one is against the peace and constitution," he said.

Bureau Report

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. You can find out more by clicking this link