April 27, 2006

Nepal PM-designate too sick for swearing-in

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal's 84-year-old Prime
Minister-designate Girija Prasad Koirala was unable to attend
his own swearing-in ceremony on Friday morning because of
bronchitis, relatives and officials said.

The decision to postpone his swearing-in means that
parliament, due to open in the afternoon for the first time in
four years, might not be able to make any substantive

Koirala's daughter Sujata said her father had bronchitis
and was on antibiotics. He had been also been given oxygen and
a saline drip on Thursday, but his health was gradually

"He is an old man, he is taking rest," she told Reuters
outside his room. "The only problem is that it was too hectic a
schedule and he is tired."

Sujata said the veteran politician would be sworn in later
on Friday if he felt better.

Koirala's ill-health has got his fifth term as prime
minister off to an inauspicious start.

On Thursday, he was too ill to attend a large rally in the
capital Kathmandu to celebrate victory for the country's
pro-democracy movement, sparking anger among many in the crowd.

It will also undermine the eagerly awaited opening session
of parliament, which had been expected to move quickly to pave
the way for elections to a special assembly to write a new
constitution for the Himalayan kingdom.

"Parliament will sit but it will only be a formal sitting,"
said Krishna Prasad Situala, spokesman for Koirala's Nepali
Congress party, the country's largest.

On Thursday, Maoist rebels declared a three-month
unilateral ceasefire, and the government is expected to move
swiftly to match the truce once it takes office.

But the rebels have made it clear they were expecting
parliament to declare elections for the constituent assembly on

Earlier this week, Nepal's King Gyanendra backed down after
weeks of often bloody street protests, agreeing to revive
parliament and hand over power to an alliance of seven
political parties which led the protests.