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Maoists lose coalition ally after sacking army chief

Latest update : 2009-05-03

Nepal's communist ULM party, a key member of the Maoist-led coalition government, has withdrawn its support for Prime Minister Prachanda after he fired the country's army chief, in a dispute that threatens to plunge the country into chaos.

Reuters - A key ally of Nepal's ruling Maoists withdrew support on Sunday, leaving the coalition unstable after differences over the sacking of the country's army chief earlier in the day.

"The party has decided to leave the coalition and withdraw support to the Maoists," Ishwar Pokharel, general secretary of the Communist UML party, told reporters.

The Maoists' move to sack army chief Rookmangud Katawal has angered government allies. The UML's withdrawal of support leaves the Maoists with a slender majority in a 601-member parliament.

The Maoists fired Katawal accusing him of disobeying instructions not to hire new recruits and refusing to accept the supremacy of the civilian government over the army.

But opposition parties say the former rebels, who joined the political mainstream under a 2006 peace deal, want to control the armed forces. Government allies say they are angry because the decision was taken unilaterally.

The developments have plunged the impoverished Himalayan nation into crisis, as the withdrawal of any more allies would leave the Maoist-led government in a minority and force a parliamentary vote.

Katawal had refused to accept his dismissal and was meeting other generals in his office, local television stations reported.

Nepal does not have a history of military coups, but the move could wreck a 2006 peace pact that ended a decade-long civil war that pitted the army against the Maoists.

A meeting of all political parties -- excluding the Maoists but including their allies in the coalition -- was scheduled for later on Sunday, opposition officials said.

Local television and political analysts said more allies could desert the Maoists.


Date created : 2009-05-03