Khanal dismisses 'secret' deal to hand over power to Prachanda

Kathmandu: Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal on Sunday dismissed reports that he had agreed to hand over power to Maoists supremo Prachanda as part of a "secret" deal, as he underlined the need for a national consensus government including the main opposition Nepali Congress.

"No agreement was reached with Prachanda to hand over the government leadership to the Maoist party by May 24 in case it would not be possible to draft the constitution within stipulated date of May 28", Khanal told mediapersons.

60-year-old Khanal's cabinet formation has been delayed as the Prime Minister has failed to finalise a power-sharing deal with the Maoists, with whose support he won the election.

Khanal, who was elected by lawmakers after more than seven months of stalemate and 17 attempts on February 3, appointed three ministers on Thursday.

Addressing a function organized by journalists to felicitate the new prime minister, Khanal said the seven-point agreement which he had signed with Prachanda is aleady in the process of implementation.

He, however, made it clear that he did not believe in going word by word to implement the pact but follow the spirit of the agreement.

The two main allies CPN-UML and the Maoists have failed to arrive at an understanding over the distribution of portfolios. UCPN-Maoist, the largest party in the House is demanding important portfolios, including the home ministry.

The Maoists have decided not to join the cabinet as their demand for the important home ministry portfolio was not fulfilled.

The, Maoists, have said that they will not join the coalition unless the Prime minister fully implements the pact.

The "secret" pact includes provisions such as sharing Prime Ministerial post between Khanal and Prachanda on rotational basis and forming separate unit in Nepal Army after the integration of the former Maoist combatants with the military.

Replying to a question, he said that this government is not the product of the leftist polarization.

"I don't believe in either democratic or leftist polarization as there is a need to forge greater unity among all democratic and republican forces to take forward the peace process," he underlined.

Khanal said that though his party prefers to hold the home ministry portfolio, the issue is not as important as completing the peace process and drafting the constitution on time.

He said the new government will seek cooperation from all political parties in completing the peace process and drafting the constitution within the stipulated date.

Khanal also called on all political parties, including the UCPN-Maoist and Nepali Congress, to join the government, saying he favours a national consensus government.

"I am confident that the government will soon take full shape", he added. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Bharat Mohan Adhikari said that that the government will present the budget for the current fiscal year in Parliament on Monday.

He claimed that all major political parties, including UCPN-Maoist and Nepali Congress, have assured him that they would cooperate in getting the budget endorsed by the Parliament.

"If the budget cannot be approved by February 15, financial crisis will be created as there will be no money in the national coffer for necessary expenditures, including distributing salaries to government staff," he said.

The previous government had announced the budget through an ordinance, which needs to be approved.

The political deadlock over the last seven months has delayed the framing of a new constitution and stalled the 2006 peace process.