Jun 28, 2009

INTERVIEW-Nepal PM says Maoist peace process stalled http://www.reuters.com/article/asiaCrisis/idUSDEL492856

Thu Jun 25, 2009 10:47am

* Peace process "not moving forward smoothly"
* Future of Maoist fighters must be settled before new constitution is written (Adds details, quotes)
By Gopal Sharma KATHMANDU, June 25 (Reuters) - Nepal's new prime minister said on Thursday...";

Nepal's new prime minister said on Thursday a peace process that ended a deadly civil war in the Himalayan nation had stalled after Maoists quit the government in May.Madhav Kumar Nepal replaced Maoist Prime Minister Prachanda after the former rebel leader quit last month over his inability to sack army chief Rookmangud Katawal, who he had accused of not taking orders from the civilian government.The Maoists have since regularly obstructed parliament sittings, organised general strikes and burned the new leader's effigy in protests to press for the removal of the army chief."The peace process is stalled and it is not moving forward smoothly," the 56-year-old Nepal told Reuters in an interview at his red brick house."The Maoists want to show that they are honest about peace. But their behaviour is not so," Nepal said, sitting under photographs of people killed three years ago during protests against the now deposed monarchy."They need to transform and change their behaviour. Otherwise they will be isolated," he said of the former rebels.Analysts say the prime minister's comments highlight fears that growing lawlessness is taking hold in Nepal, threatening the economy as strikes hit businesses, as well as undermining the country's attempts to embrace democracy and a new constitution.The Maoists were not immediately available for comment but in the past they have promised not to desert the peace process.The Maoists ended their decade-long civil war under a 2006 peace deal, confined 19,000 former fighters in U.N. monitored camps and got the 239-year-old monarchy abolished after a surprise win in last year's elections.FUTURE OF MAOIST FIGHTERSNepal, a moderate communist, vowed to prepare a post-republic constitution by May 2010 as envisaged in the peace deal.But, the prime minister said, the future of the Maoist fighters must be settled before the new constitution was written."Otherwise, it will hamper the work in the constituent assembly," he said of the body dominated by the Maoists and tasked to prepare the new constitution.The future of former Maoist fighters is a tricky issue and some senior Maoists want them to join the army.Mainstream political parties, however, reject the Maoist demand, saying that the Maoist fighters were politically indoctrinated which would affect the neutrality of the army.Nepal said Prachanda had told him and other leaders that upto 5,000 Maoist fighters who fulfilled the recruitment criteria should be absorbed in the army."So, if their leader confirms that thinking then there is no question of integrating the total number of Maoist combatants in the army," Nepal said, adding that the rest would have to be given alternative jobs.Some army generals have also refused to accept all Maoist combatants into the force.The government will request the United Nations to extend its peace monitoring mission by six months after its mandate expires next month, he said, adding the rehabilitation of the combatants will be over by the end of the year. In the past, such deadlines had not been met.A loose alliance of 22 political parties in parliament elected Nepal the premier last month. But he is still struggling to cobble together a full cabinet, due to wrangling over positions among his allies."Keeping together a coalition with so many political parties with different philosophies and stands is very difficult," said Nepal, the country's 18th prime minister since 1990. (For the latest Reuters news on Nepal see: in.reuters.com; for blogs see blogs.reuters.com/in/)
(Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Sugita Katyal)

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