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Last Updated: Friday, 15 July, 2005, 14:36 GMT 15:36 UK
Nepalese king expands his cabinet
By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Kathmandu

King Gyanendra
The king wants to surround himself with people he can trust
King Gyanendra of Nepal has expanded his cabinet, adding 12 loyalists and supporters of his February royal coup.

Like other ministers, several of the new faces are associated with the pre-democratic era before 1990 and have controversial hardline records.

The new law minister, Niranjan Thapa, played a key role in the suppression of the revolt that ushered in democracy for the second time in 1990.

The UN has meanwhile warned that Nepal is facing a "very serious" crisis.

Right wing

Mr Thapa was home minister in 1990. The suppression of the revolt that year saw some 50 people killed.

Another newly appointed minister, Jagat Gauchan, once served a jail term for attempting to assassinate a journalist who survived but was badly maimed.

The new cabinet also includes a right-wing leader who urged the king to assume absolute power before February and at least two men suspended or expelled from their parties for supporting the royal takeover.

Lakhdar Brahimi, special advisor to the UN Secretary-General
The best option, we prefer, is that neither us nor anybody else is needed, that the Nepalese solve their problems themselves
Lakhdar Brahimi

Ironically one is the son of the man who in 1959 became Nepal's first democratic prime minister, BP Koirala.

The cabinet continues to exclude Nepal's main political parties, which the king, on taking power, accused of being corrupt and of failing to quell the Maoist insurgency.

Those parties would probably have refused to join the government even if they had been offered the chance.

As with his recent appointments of powerful local officials, the monarch has shown he intends to surround himself with people he can trust.

In the words of an opposition spokesman, he's going to do what he pleases.

Spiralling violence

But the UN has cautioned that Nepal is in crisis and a solution urgently needs to be found.

Lakhdar Brahimi, the special advisor to the UN Secretary-General said that the situation must not be allowed to slide further, otherwise it would become extremely difficult to solve.

Nepalese soldiers
The UN wants an end to hostilities

Mr Brahimi is a top UN diplomat who has worked as its special envoy in Afghanistan and was instrumental in putting together Iraq's previous interim government.

His visit to Nepal is a sign of deepening UN concern about the spiralling violence caused by the Maoist insurrection and the related political paralysis.

He said there must be a return to constitutional order, an end to hostilities and a national dialogue towards a negotiated solution.

Although the Maoists have been pressing for UN mediation, Mr Brahimi said the organisation was not looking for such a job. It would only take it on if asked by all parties.

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