Nepal poll meet put off
May 10, 2007 - 5:25:11 PM
Kathmandu, May 10 - The political stalemate in Nepal deepened Thursday with the ruling coalition calling off a crucial meeting to decide fresh poll dates and find a way to revive parliament, blocked for nearly a month due to protests by legislators.
Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala put off the meeting of the top leaders of the eight ruling parties, including the Maoist guerrillas, on the ground that more 'homework' needed to be done by the parties.
The postponement was on the cards ever since the Maoist guerrillas started going on a rampage in western districts, attacking government offices, causing the death of at least one person and injuring nearly a dozen security personnel.
The guerrillas had joined the seven-party government last month.
On Wednesday, the Maoist attack spread to Dang district in mid-western Nepal, a Maoist stronghold.
At least 50 people - most of them Maoists - were injured when the rebels clashed with police in Ghorahi, the main town in the district.
The rebels had gone to the district administration office to give a petition demanding the release of nearly three dozen of their comrades who were arrested in Bardiya district earlier this week for setting fire to two government offices there.
While returning from there, the unruly cadres attacked the land revenue office and the office of the state-owned Nepal Electricity Authority and began pelting policemen with stones when they tried to bring the situation under control.
Police arrested over 30 Maoists, including several rebel journalists, and beefed up security near government offices as well as imposing a ban on rallies near administrative buildings.
Meanwhile, reports from Sankhuwasabha district in northern Nepal said a man in his 70s died in Dhupu village Wednesday after being assaulted by two Maoist cadres over a dispute about a bridge under construction.
The fresh attacks by the Maoists come days after the US issued a fresh list of organisations banned by Washington.
The list continues to include the Maoists though the rebels formally signed a peace pact with the Nepal government last year and pledged to lay down arms.
The US also issued a fresh travel advisory this week, warning citizens that it was still dangerous to travel in Nepal due to continued aggression by the Maoists.
Though the government had earlier said it would hold the much-awaited election June 20, the Election Commission ruled it out on the grounds of the worsening security situation, especially in the Terai plains, and the lack of time.
The other parties in the ruling alliance, including Koirala's Nepali Congress, have been fiercely critical of the Maoists, accusing them of reneging on the peace pact and preventing a conducive election environment.
Besides the election hanging fire, Nepal's parliament, revived after a pro-democracy agitation, has also been non-functional since last month.
For continuous six sessions, Maoist MPs and legislators from the Terai plains have been disrupting proceedings, asking for their demands to be fulfilled.
Speaker Subhash Chandra Nembang has called for the next session Monday.
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