Fri, Feb 09, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Gyanendra denies plans to abdicate

UNCERTAIN FUTURE When a Nepali weekly reported that the king was leaving the country, the royal palace quickly said there was `no truth' to the allegations

AFP , KATHMANDU

Nepal's royal palace yesterday denied a report that embattled King Gyanendra was planning to abdicate and leave the country after being stripped of most of his powers.

"There is very much absolutely no truth to this report whatsoever. It is highly irresponsible reporting," an official from the palace secretariat said.

"The king is very much here, the peace process is on, everything is going as people would want. The king has always said he would abide by people's aspirations," said the official, who asked not to be named.

The weekly Nepali-language Ghatana Ra Bichar reported earlier this week that the king -- whose future is hanging in the balance amid a peace deal between the government and fiercely republican Maoist rebels -- was considering leaving the country.

The newspaper said the king had increased the number of meetings with family members to discuss the possibility of handing over his throne.

"According to his close relatives, during his meetings, King Gyanendra has said that he planned to hand over the throne to his grandson and leave Nepal for retirement for a few years in a foreign country," the small-circulation newspaper reported.

Nepal's main political parties and Maoist insurgents formed a loose alliance in late 2005, and together organized massive protests in April of last year that forced the king to give up dictatorial powers and reinstate parliament.

A peace deal signed late last year formally ended a 10-year civil war, and has seen the king stripped of his position as head of the 90,000-strong Nepal Army. He has also been temporarily removed as the Himalayan nation's head of state.

King Gyanednra's future will now be decided by a body that is due to be elected to rewrite Nepal's Constitution permanently, but Maoist leader Prachanda on Wednesday called for an end to the 238-year-old Shah dynasty.

The king started his reign under a cloud of grief and suspicion, after the previous king and eight other members of the royal family were shot dead in a palace massacre in 2001.

An alcohol and drug-fuelled Crown Prince Dipendra opened fire on his relatives before killing himself, after his parents prevented him from marrying the woman he wanted, according to reports at the time.

Gyanendra was one of the few royals away from the palace that evening.

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