Nepalese parties in last minute negotiations to avert criss



Kathmandu: The Communist-led coalition in Nepal Saturday was locked in a last minute negotiations with the opposition parties to hammer out a deal to avert a constitutional crisis, hours before the term of the interim parliament expires Saturday.

Leaders of CPN UML and UCPN-Maoist, the two largest party in the ruling coalition are also holding discussions within their parties to firm up their policies amid the deadlock with the Nepali Congress, the main opposition in the House.

Unified CPN (Maoist), the largest party in the 601-member Constituent Assembly, is holding a meeting of its powerful Standing Committee while the CPN-UML of Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal is set for a key consultation.

The Nepali Congress, the second largest party, is also discussing its strategy with members of the parliamentary panel.

The Nepalese parties failed to end the deadlock over the extension of the term of the House despite several round of talks yesterday.

Prime Minister Khanal, Maoist chairman Prachanda and Nepali Congress President Sushil Koirala held talks to end the standoff amid growing concern over the uncertainty in Nepal's peace process and failure of the parties to agree on a consensus to promulgate a new constitution.

"The Maoists did not agree to prepare an action plan to hand over arms" and to decide on the modality for the integration of their former combatants with the security forces, said a leader who attended the tripartite talks yesterday.

The Maoists do not seem ready to move forward the peace process and the constitution drafting process, he underlined. The opposition parties have asked the Maoists to handover to the government the containers with the Maoist weapons, regrouping of the former guerrillas for the purpose of integration and rehabilitation, formation of a national government and return of the property seized during the decade-long insurgency which ended in 2006.

They have also asked the Maoists to dismantle their paramilitary youth wing, Young Communist League.

The ruling coalition, which does not have the needed two-third majority, has registered a constitution amendment bill in parliament proposing a one-year extension for the Assembly, but the opposition parties have refused to provide the support without the Maoists first accepting their demands.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the Assembly could be extended only for six months, as against the government's decision for a one-year extension.

A concerned President Ram Baran Yadav, who held consultations with top leaders, including the Prime Minister, Prachanda and Koirala, asked them to reach a consensus and push forward the stalled peace process.

Nepal Maoists ended its decade-long civil war in 2006 and emerged as the single largest party in the 2008 election.

The Assembly, which was formed after the election, was originally elected with a two-year mandate -- to end on May 28, 2010 with the promulgation of the constitution.

However, the interim parliament failed to draft a constitution last year and its term was extended for one year in a last minute deal among the political parties.

Amid the uncertainty over Nepal's peace process, security has been stepped-up in the capital, particularly around the parliament, where all rallies have been banned.

Riot police was deployed in sensitive areas in the capital where number of protest demonstrations and rallies have been held over the last few days.

Thousands of people have stepped up pressure on Nepalese lawmakers to end the deadlock. Ethnic and fringe groups have held demonstration for greater rights and representation for their communities.

Normal life was disrupted in the capital and major cities across the country yesterday due to a general strike called by various groups frustrated by the failure of the lawmakers to promulgate a new constitution for the young republic.

PTI