Page last updated at 14:06 GMT, Friday, 25 July 2008 15:06 UK

Nepal Maoists rethink opposition

Maoist leader Prachanda (L) and Second-in-Command Baburam Bhattarai
The Maoists may be willing to perform a u-turn

Former Maoist rebels in Nepal are considering reversing a decision earlier this week not to try to form the country's next government.

They have set three conditions to other parties. One is that they have are given a minimum of two years in power to write a new constitution.

Correspondents say the Maoists' decision could result in the country avoiding another political crisis.

They were upset over the rejection of their preferred presidential candidate.

On Monday, the man the Maoists were backing for the presidency, Ramraja Prasad Singh, lost a run-off in the constituent assembly to Nepali Congress party candidate Ram Baran Yadav by 282 votes to 308.

It was the first major decision by the assembly since lawmakers decided to abolish the 239-year-old monarchy and declare a republic, part of a peace process that ended a decade-long civil war with Maoist insurgents.

'Minimum programme'

"Our party has put forward three conditions to lead the government," Maoist spokesman Krishna Bahadur Mahara told the AFP news agency.

"One of the conditions we want is a written commitment from the other political parties that they will not be involved in the forming and ousting of the government once we lead the government, for at least two years," he said.

Maoists suppporters in Kathmandu last May
Correspondents say a fresh bout of uncertainty may be averted

The other demands were that the three main opposition parties dissolve their alliance and that the former rebels be allowed to launch a "minimum programme".

Nepal remains politically gridlocked three months after assembly elections which the Maoists emerged clearly as the biggest party, but with only one third of parliamentary seats.

The Maoists say they do not want to lead a shaky coalition in a country that has seen 16 governments in the past 18 years.

Much of the uncertainty over that time stemmed from the uneasy relationship between successive governments and the monarchy.

King Gyanendra assumed complete control of the country in February 2005, but weeks of demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of people secured the end of direct palace rule in April 2006.

In the same year the Maoists, who had been fighting for a communist republic, declared an end to their insurgency.

Thousands of people from the government and rebel sides died during the decade-long conflict.

By December 2006, an alliance of traditional parties together with the Maoists agreed to abolish the monarchy.

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