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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 March 2007, 19:07 GMT
Nepal's king is made to cut staff
By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Kathmandu

Nepal's King Gyanendra
King Gyanendra says he was compelled to seize power
King Gyanendra of Nepal is to have his staff cut back by at least half.

The cuts have been introduced by the coalition government which took over when the monarch was forced to abandon direct rule 11 months ago.

They are the latest in a series of moves aimed at curbing his power since he was forced to restore democracy last April after street protests.

Since then, few Nepalese politicians from the ruling alliance have expressed much support for the monarchy.

Voluntary redundancy

The cuts at the Narayanhiti royal palace come as no surprise, but they will still leave the king feeling battered and bruised.

GP Koirala
Mr Koirala has said that it is time for the king to go

Different ministers have given different figures, but it appears the cabinet actually wants to reassign half of the palace's 750 staff to ordinary government posts, while another quarter will be offered voluntary redundancy.

In addition, all employees over 58 will be retired.

One minister said those leaving will include cooks and waiters, Queen Komal's hairdressers, and servants who pluck flowers for use in the royals' religious ceremonies.

Outcry

King Gyanendra is beleaguered.

This week the prime minister, GP Koirala, said it would be better if he stepped down, and the government formed a panel to nationalise properties King Gyanendra has acquired since succeeding his murdered brother in 2001.

The king is believed to have been named as a responsible party by an enquiry into the suppression of last April's mass demonstrations.

Victory rally in Nepal in April
Popular protests swept Nepal last spring

He has been asked to pay taxes and his image is even being removed from banknotes.

Last month, in a rare political utterance, he said his seizure of executive powers two years ago had been necessary.

That caused an outcry.

The fate of the monarchy lies in the hands of an assembly due to be elected this June - although the Maoist former rebels, themselves feeling politically insecure, are pressing for it to be abolished even sooner.




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