Nepal's ex-rebels finally join new government

AP , Friday 4 Mar 2011

Inclusion of former Maoist rebels loosens political deadlock

Nepal's newly elected Prime Minister Jhalnath Khanal addresses the nation for the first time in Kathmandu, February 18, (Reuters).

Nepal's former communist rebels joined the new government Friday, appointing four party members as ministers after a monthlong dispute with the country's new prime minister.

The inclusion of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) in the government comes as a relief for Prime Minister Jhalnath Khanal, who has been struggling to hold on to power since he was elected last month in parliament with the help of the Maoists.

Khanal's election was expected to break the country's long political deadlock and help bring back stability. However, a lingering disagreement between his party and the Maoists prolonged the political crisis.

Khanal's Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist) does not have a majority in parliament, so he needs the Maoists' continued support.

The Maoist ministers took the oath of office at the presidential office on Friday. The Maoists are expected to send 11 ministers in the new government but only sent four on Friday.

Maoist spokesman Dinanath Sharma said they were still deciding the names of remaining ministers and would soon name them.

Khanal's party and the Maoists had disagreed on distribution of Cabinet posts, and at one point the Maoist announced they would not join the government.

The Maoists were demanding the powerful home ministry but Khanal's party refused saying the former rebels could not be trusted with control of police force and local administration. They reached a truce, saying the home ministry would remain with the prime minister for now.

Parliament elected Khanal prime minister on 3 February after 16 failed votes over seven months. The previous government bowed to pressure from the Maoists and resigned in June 2010.

The government is supposed to write a new constitution by a May deadline and also complete the peace process that brought the Maoists into mainstream politics.

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