April 29, 2006

Nepal parliament set to decide future of monarchy

By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepali political parties discussed
the fate of the once-revered monarchy and proposals to set up a
constituent assembly on Saturday, just days after the king
ceded power in the face of mass protests.

Other weighty issues on the agenda, a day before they
debate a proposal for a special assembly to write a new
constitution, included an expected decision to match a
ceasefire announced by Maoist rebels.

Bowing to weeks of often bloody protests, King Gyanendra
restored parliament this week and handed power to the prime
minister named by seven political parties that led this month's
pro-democracy demonstrations, in which at least 13 people died
and thousands were wounded.

Prime Minister designate Girija Prasad Koirala, in a notice
to parliament which convened for the first time in four years
on Friday, proposed elections for the assembly to draw up a new
constitution, hold talks with Maoist rebels and declare a

The second sitting on the parliament is due to convene at 4
p.m. (1015 hours GMT) on Sunday to discuss the plan.

Party officials said they were giving final shape to their

"All seven political parties are committed to the
constituent assembly and the prime minister's proposal will be
passed without any problem," said Subhash Nemwang, a top leader
of the Communist Party of Nepal (UML), the second biggest
political party.

"After the house approves the proposal the constituent
assembly will become a national commitment."

The parliament is expected to give directives to the new
government to match the ceasefire announced by the rebels
earlier in the week and start talks with the guerrillas.

"Once we hold talks and arrive at a consensus with the
Maoists, we'll fix the date for the election to the constituent
assembly," Nemwang told Reuters.

Life in Nepal's temple-studded capital, the flashpoint in
this month's anti-king protests, has largely returned to normal
after Gyanendra's announcement on Monday evening he was
reviving parliament and surrendering power to the seven

On Friday, thousands protested outside the parliament gate
reminding legislators that they should not back down from
curbing the king's power, a key demand of the Maoists to end
their decade-old conflict in which more than 13,000 people have

Also on Friday, the rebels kept up pressure for the
abolition of monarchy when the leader of their student wing
addressed a public rally in the capital, barely less than 500
meters (1,650 feet) from the king's palace despite an arrest
warrant against him.

"Our hands are not only used for making a fist," Lekha Nath
Neupane said in Nepali. "We are engaged in a revolution for
peace but if necessary we can pick up guns and bombs again."

In an accident unconnected to the violence, eight soldiers
were killed in an explosion at an army barracks at Gulmi, 400
km (250 miles) west of Kathmandu, an officer said.

He did not elaborate.