Page last updated at 08:16 GMT, Sunday, 3 May 2009 09:16 UK

Nepalese army general fired by PM

A Nepalese soldier during fighting with Maoists rebels in 2005
The Nepalese army fought Maoists rebels for more than a decade

Nepal's army chief has been fired by the ruling Maoists in a row over the integration of their former fighters into the armed forces.

General Rookmangud Katawal was forced out during a special Cabinet meeting, the information minister said.

He was accused of defying government orders to stop hiring new recruits and to get rid of eight generals.

The government wants to integrate former Maoist rebel fighters into the army - a move opposed by generals.

Correspondents say the row could undermine the peace process which ended the civil war in 2006.

The Maoists fought the army for more than a decade before giving up their armed revolt, and the relationship between the two sides has been tense since the former rebels came into power last year.

Thirteen-thousand people died in the conflict.

Information and Communications Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara said Gen Katawal was fired because "he failed to give satisfactory explanation on why the government orders were ignored".

The Maoists accused Gen Katawal of hiring 2,800 new recruits and reinstating the generals, dismissed by the defence ministry, without consulting the government, Reuters said.

The army chief has been refusing to integrate former Maoist fighters that he views as politically indoctrinated.

In March, the Nepalese Supreme Court ordered the defence ministry to put on hold its decision to retire the eight generals from the army.

Cabinet walk-out

Several representatives walked out of the Cabinet meeting in protest, but a vote went ahead.

"We have been insisting that the decision on the army chief should be taken through consensus among all political parties but the prime minister decided to ignore us," said Deputy Prime Minister Bamdev Gautam, according to Associated Press news agency.

Gen Katawal was due to retire in four months.

The army's second-in-command, Kul Bahadur Khadka, has been appointed acting army chief, the deputy PM said.

Asked in a BBC interview last year about suspicions that Gen Katawal would be sacked, Prime Minister Prachanda said: "That will not happen.

"As long as everyone including the army, the police and the other officials remain committed to the people's mandate on democracy, peace and change, no-one needs to feel insecure."

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