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Nepal PM refuses to quit ''till consensus on national govt''

Shirish B Pradhan,
Kathmandu, Aug 13 - Political crisis in Nepal deepened today as a crucial meeting of the main parties failed to agree on a national unity government even as the embattled Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal refused to quit till a consensus is formed on a new coalition.

The talks failed to make any headway after the main opposition Nepali Congress walked out of the meeting, asking Khanal to include the Terai-based Madhesi parties, the fourth largest group in parliament, in the dialogue for a national coalition.

The Prime Minister, who earlier this month had promised to step down, was neither ready to quit the post nor prepared to include the Madhesi parties in the dialogue, said Ramchandra Poudyal, the vice president of Nepali Congress party.

CPN-UML leader Khanal, who was elected prime minster on February 3 after 17 rounds of polls in Parliament, had said that he would resign if the major works related to the peace process were not completed by August 13.

We have been asking the Prime Minister to resign as he has failed to move forward the peace process and make tangible progress in drafting the new constitution, he said, after the meeting of the three main political parties - the CPN-UML, UCPN-Maoist and the Nepali Congress.

During the meeting, Khanal is learnt to have told other leaders that his resignation without a consensus on a new government would result in a constitutional crisis as the extended term of the Constituent Assembly is set to expire in August end.

Nepali Congress, the second largest party in parliament, has been disrupting the proceedings of the Parliament for more than a week, demanding Khanal's resignation in order to implement a five-point deal he had signed with UCP-Maoist and Nepali Congress while extending the term of the 601-member Assembly on May 28 by three months.

The pact includes concluding the 2006 peace process, expediting constitution writing process, integration of the Maoists' combatants with the security forces and resignation of the Prime Minister to pave way for a national government.

Poudyal hoped that Khanal might step down later today as there was no other alternative to resolve the crisis.

During the talks, the Maoist leaders ruled out the possibility of integrating the former combatants within the deadline given by the Prime Minister, he said.

The Maoist party, the single largest group in parliament, and the Nepali Congress have claimed the right to lead a national government.

The Maoists have projected Vice Chairman Baburam Bhattarai as the next prime ministerial candidate.

The Assembly, formed in 2008 after a popular election, has failed to fulfill its main function to draft a new constitution though its term was extended twice, the latest on May 29 which is set expire in end of August. PTI

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