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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 March, 2005, 17:50 GMT
Nepal begins corruption inquiry
King Gyanendra of Nepal
The king promised to crack down on corruption when he took over
Former Nepalese cabinet ministers are being questioned by a powerful new anti-corruption panel over alleged misuse of government funds.

Two former ministers were questioned on Tuesday after four others were quizzed on Monday.

They were the first to appear before the panel since a royal pledge to crack down on graft and corruption.

The Royal Commission was set up by the king last month, after he seized control of the country.

The commission has wide-ranging powers and is similar to a court of law.

The former ministers are alleged to have distributed more than $50,000 of state funds to their political supporters last year.

We did not take the money... for personal use nor did we distribute the funds personally
Former Local Development Minister Yubraj Gyawali

The two questioned on Tuesday were former Land Reforms Minister, Jog Meher Shrestha and the former Local Development Minister, Yubraj Gyawali.

They and the four quizzed a day earlier were all cabinet ministers in the coalition government sacked by King Gyanendra last month, and all deny any wrongdoing, saying they are victims of a "political vendetta".

Commission officials deny the allegations and allege massive abuse of power by politicians belonging to previous regimes, but declined to give details.

One of the ministers being questioned, Homnath Dahal, said he would challenge the charges against him in the Supreme Court.

Call for talks

Several politicians have been detained since King Gyanendra sacked the previous government in February and imposed emergency rule.

They include two senior opposition leaders, former prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala and the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist Madhav Kumar Nepal.

In a related development, Sher Bahadur Deuba, who was sacked from his post of prime minister by the king, has called for direct talks with the king to resolve the political crisis.

Mr Deuba also said an all-party government made up of opposition parties should be formed.

He was speaking to the BBC almost a week after being released from detention.

Last week the United Nations and international agencies warned that Nepal was on the brink of a humanitarian crisis after 10 years of bloody conflict between Maoist rebels and the government.



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