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Friday, 20 July, 2001, 12:10 GMT 13:10 UK
Nepal contender urges dialogue
Former Nepali PM
Mr Koirala stepped down after months of criticism
One of the contenders for the post of prime minister in Nepal, Chakra Prasad Bastola, says he favours holding talks with the leader of the country's Maoist rebels.


We have to give the reigns of power to younger generation leaders now

Former premier KP Bhattariai
Mr Bastola, who is Nepal's foreign and home minister, told the BBC he was positive about entering into dialogue with the Maoists if he became prime minister.

His comments follow the resignation of Girija Prasad Koirala, who stepped down as prime minister on Thursday following months of criticism.

Mr Koirala's Nepali Congress Party says it will elect a new leader on Sunday.

Contenders

"The election will be held by Sunday, but first we are all trying to reach a consensus and decide on a candidate who will be chosen unanimously," party general secretary Sushil Koirala said.

Nepali police
Some 70 policemen have been kidnapped
Mr Bastola is one of several candidates with reports also naming former premier Sher Bahadur Deuba and Mr Koirala's former deputy, Ram Chandra Poudel.

Mr Poudel resigned last week over differences with Mr Koirala on how to tackle the Maoists.

"We have to give the reigns of power to younger generation leaders now," the Kantipur newspapers quoted former prime minister Krishna Prasad Bhattarai as saying.

Mr Koirala had been under increasing pressure from the opposition over his handling of the Maoist revolt as well as over long-standing corruption allegations.

The chairman of the outlawed Maoist Communist Party, Prachanda, had said Mr Koirala's removal from office was a condition for entering into talks with the government.

Hostages

The rebels have staged a number of high-profile attacks recently, including seizing 70 policemen after overrunning a police post last week in the west of the country.

Human rights activists, who met the rebels in their remote outpost, have failed to secure the policemen's release.

The head of the human rights organisation told the BBC that they were not allowed to meet the captive policemen.

But he said they had not given up hope of a peaceful resolution.

Violence had been feared after the government mobilised a large army contingent to rescue the kidnapped policemen.

The rebels, who are fighting to replace the monarchy with a communist republic, have stepped up their activities, hoping to exploit the uncertainty since the massacre of nine members of the royal family last month.

See also:

14 Jul 01 | South Asia
Hunt continues for Nepal hostages
13 Jul 01 | South Asia
Nepal army clashes with Maoists
07 Jul 01 | South Asia
Nepal rebels step up attacks
04 Jul 01 | South Asia
Eyewitness: Nepal's Maoist power base
14 May 01 | South Asia
Nepal's growing rural revolt
04 Jul 01 | South Asia
Nepal's Maoists on the move
29 Jun 01 | South Asia
Nepal king backs democracy
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