Page last updated at 17:32 GMT, Wednesday, 7 May 2008 18:32 UK

Nepal king 'to meet top Maoist'

By Rabindra Mishra
Editor, BBC Nepali Service

Prachanda - 19/4/2008
Prachanda says he wants to be president

Nepal's Maoist leader says he has received indications from the royal palace that the king is willing to meet him to discuss the monarchy's future.

Prachanda's party won the most seats on a staunchly republican agenda in last month's elections.

The former rebel leader wants to meet King Gyanendra to arrange his "graceful exit" and an end to the monarchy.

Prachanda says the Maoists will lead the new government in Nepal, the world's last Hindu kingdom.

'No foolish measures'

Prachanda, or the Fierce One, has never hidden his hatred towards King Gyanendra - often using derogatory language against him.

King  Gyanendra
The king's days appear to be numbered

However, after winning last month's Constituent Assembly elections, Prachanda said he was ready to meet the king.

Now, he has told the BBC that he has received positive indications from the palace towards his proposals.

However, he insisted that the talks could only be about ways of ending the monarchy and the king should be clear about that.

"If the king does not respect the people's verdict and thinks of some mischief, that will harm himself, his offspring and the country as well. I hope he will not take any foolish measures."

Prachanda said he hoped the king would "voluntarily resign" on the day of the first sitting of the assembly, which is expected to implement an earlier decision to turn Nepal into a republic.

That, the former rebel leader said, would be an examplary gesture from the king to help build a "new Nepal".

Army affairs

Prachanda led a decade-long insurgency to turn Nepal into a communist republic. Some 13,000 lives were lost in the violence.

He joined mainstream politics two years ago with a commitment to the multi-party system but was insistent on abolishing the 240-year-old institution of monarchy.

He had equally bitter relations with the Nepalese army.

But Prachanda told the BBC he had no intention of meddling with army affairs as it had already committed itself to work under a democratically-elected government.

The Maoists were expected to trail behind Nepal's two main parties in last month's polls.

But they baffled observers and the international community by winning twice as many seats as their nearest rival.

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