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Page last updated at 13:48 GMT, Saturday, 21 June 2008 14:48 UK

Nepalese cabinet crisis deepens

By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Kathmandu

Nepalese PM Girid Prasad Koirala
Time for the ageing prime minister to stand down, the Maoists say

Nepalese PM Girija Prasad Koirala is struggling to keep his administration together after Maoist ministers said they were resigning from the cabinet.

Bitter disagreements among politicians mean that more than three weeks after the abolition of the monarchy, the country still has no head of state.

The former Maoist rebels accuse Mr Koirala of clinging to his post after his party came a poor second in polls.

They say the 83-year-old prime minister is unfit for office.

When they changed the constitution last December to ensure that the monarchy would soon be scrapped, Nepal's politicians left huge areas of detail undecided.

They did not work out what kind of president there would be in the transitional phase.

And they said, vaguely, that a new government would be chosen on the basis of consensus among a group of seven parties.

Ten weeks after the election, that consensus remains a dream.

Infighting

The Maoists, elected as the biggest party on a promise of transforming the country, accuse Mr Koirala of the Nepali Congress party of keeping the prime ministerial post unreasonably.

Two Maoist leaders have told the BBC that their ministers are quitting the cabinet because they want to speed up the formation of a new government.

But a Congress spokesman said his party was "sorry and surprised" at the Maoist resignations and that the prime minister would not accept them.

With the Congress setting conditions for the Maoists to lead a government, including the return of all the property they seized during their 10-year insurgency, the deadlock continues.

There is also bitter disagreement on who should become president, a post which it is now agreed will be largely ceremonial but will also be commander-in-chief of the army.

Among those elected to the new constitutional assembly, there is anger that the politicians' arguments have blocked the assembly from doing any work.

Consumed by its infighting, the government has proved toothless in the face of a new wave of strikes over rising fuel prices and a growing tendency towards social anarchy.



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