Sun, Apr 01, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Nepali parliament postpones peace agreement

AFP , KATHMANDU

Nepal's parliament yesterday delayed ratifying a landmark pact to bring former Maoist rebels into government and cement an end to a decade of bloody civil war.

The parliament had been expected to give its formal approval to the deal reached on Friday under which the main political parties agreed to give the Maoists five portfolios in a new Cabinet.

But political wrangling over over Cabinet hierarchy forced a postponement of the parliamentary sitting until today.

Nepal's seven main political parties and the former rebels met in the prime minister's residence yesterday to sort out the differences.

The row did not jeopardize the decision to admit the Maoists into the new interim government, said Prakash Sharan Mahat, a lawmaker from the Nepali Congress (Democratic) party.

"We will meet tomorrow at 8am and sort out these differences and we will go to parliament around 11am tomorrow [Sunday] to formalize the Cabinet," Mahat said.

The parties were at odds over who should hold the most senior positions in the Cabinet. One of its tasks will be steering the Himalayan nation to new elections this year.

"The meeting has been postponed until tomorrow morning because the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) could not reach agreement regarding the ministerial hierarchy in the interim government," said Dev Gurung, a Maoist leader.

Under the new government deal reached Friday, veteran Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala -- the leader of the Nepali Congress Party and architect of the peace process -- retains his position as leader of the government.

Koirala's party will also hold the key defense, home and finance ministries, while the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) -- Nepal's second-largest party -- will hold the foreign ministry.

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