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Last Updated: Friday, 28 April 2006, 15:42 GMT 16:42 UK
Nepal MPs begin historic session
Nepal parliamentarians
The meeting began with a two-minute silence
The Nepalese parliament has held its first meeting in four years in the capital, Kathmandu.

King Gyanendra reinstated the assembly on 24 April in a bid to end almost three weeks of nationwide protests in which at least 14 people died.

But newly appointed Prime Minister, octogenarian Girija Prasad Koirala, was too ill to attend.

Mr Koirala, a veteran politician, was appointed by King Gyanendra on Thursday, but has a lung infection.

The former prime minister and current head of the Nepali Congress party was the choice of the coalition of seven political parties which led the campaign for the king to restore democracy.

'Gratitude'

A large crowd gathered outside parliament, urging the MPs to draw up a new constitution.

Proceedings inside began with a two- minute silence for the 14 people killed during the protests.

"We express our gratitude to those who died in the democracy struggle," deputy speaker Chitra Lekha Yadav said.

GP Koirala

"What we've achieved is really admirable - to go on united is what we need."

Prime Minister Koirala's absence from proceedings was, medical sources said, due to an unspecified lung problem.

Mr Koirala sent a message to MPs instructing them to press ahead with plans for a constituent assembly, one of the key demands of Nepal's main political parties and also the country's Maoist rebels.

The session of the lower house of parliament lasted for just over half-an-hour before adjourning. The upper house has still to meet.

'Much to prove'

The king dissolved parliament in May 2002 after it failed to renew a state of emergency imposed to fight the rebels.
HAVE YOUR SAY
As Nepali citizens our main concern is stable peace
Ananta Karki, Kathmandu

The BBC's Dan Isaacs says the politicians have much to prove to their supporters after years of bickering and infighting.

They face two key tasks - to restart a dialogue with the Maoists as a prelude to drawing them into the political process, and to address the issue of elections to a constituent assembly which could debate and draw up a new constitution.

What this would mean for the future of the monarchy is not clear.

Our correspondent says there is little popular support for anything more than a ceremonial monarchy emerging from that process.

But this would require fundamental compromises on all sides, including from the Maoists, who since 1996 have conducted a violent campaign for an end to the monarchy.

The Maoists staged their own demonstration in Kathmandu on Friday.

There was no sign of police or army units at the rally. Maoist leaders spoke to about 2,000 supporters and onlookers.

On Thursday the Maoists announced a three-month unilateral truce.

Leader Prachanda said in a statement that the group would refrain from "offensive military action" for a three-month period, but remain in an "active defensive position".

He said he hoped the ceasefire would encourage the formation of a new constituent assembly given the job of rewriting the constitution.

Despite the truce, the Nepalese army said Maoist rebels had kidnapped 22 soldiers in the south-eastern district of Dhankuta.

The unarmed soldiers were on their way home or on leave, said an army official. Five of the soldiers managed to escape.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Scenes from the first session of the reconvened parliament



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