Maoists quit Nepal govt, demand PM's resignation

KATHMANDU, Saturday (AFP) - Nepal was thrown into political limbo today after the Maoists quit the interim government of the newly republican nation and demanded the prime minister's resignation.
Nepal's former Maoist rebels stormed out of the government late on Friday, accusing a rival party of clinging to power despite being defeated in landmark elections in the Himalayan country two months ago.

“Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala must resign to open the way for the formation of a new government,” senior Maoist official Dinanath Sharma told AFP after the ultra-leftists announced their resignations.

Nepal abolished its monarchy three weeks ago, but the country's two most powerful parties -- the Maoists and the prime minister's Nepali Congress party -- have been unable to reach a deal on power-sharing.

The Maoists, who dominate the new assembly elected in April, say they have the right to lead the government and choose a new president. They say the wrangling is preventing the assembly from starting work on its chief task of rewriting of Nepal's constitution.

“The constituent assembly has not been able to begin drafting a new constitution because of these power-sharing problems,” said Sharma. Nepali Congress officials say Koirala -- regarded by many as the architect of a peace deal that ended a deadly civil war waged by the Maoists and led to the creation of the new republic -- deserves to be Nepal's first president.

“The Maoist decision has shocked us, the political impasse has deepened but that doesn't mean we are out of solutions,” said Nepali Congress spokesman Arjun Nasingh Khatri Chettri. The president's role is a crucial one because the person occupying the office is expected to be commander of the armed forces.

“This deadlock is creating uncertainty, but we are always ready to reach a consensus through mutual understanding,” said Maoist official Sharma.

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