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Nepal's Prime Minister Resigns Amid Protests - 2003-05-30


Nepal's prime minister has resigned, following political protests earlier this week and a continuing stalemate with opposition parties.

Prime Minister Lokendra Bahadur Chand submitted his resignation to Nepal's King Gyandendra, who immediately began consultations to form a new government. Mr. Chand's caretaker administration is expected to continue in office until a new council of ministers is named.

The prime minister, a staunch monarchist, was appointed to his post by King Gyanendra last October, after the king dissolved parliament, and dismissed the government of then Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba. The king said that administration was incapable of providing security for elections in a country wracked by a Maoist insurgency.

Opposition politicians, who called it unconstitutional, condemned the move. Since then, five opposition parties demanded an end to Mr. Chand's eight-month-old government and the reopening of parliament.

Opposition politicians staged street protests this week during 50th anniversary celebrations of the first ascent of Mount Everest. The protests were widely seen as an embarrassment to Mr. Chand's administration.

Most opposition parties have welcomed Mr. Chand's resignation, but also say their protests will continue, unless King Gyanendra addresses their concerns.

Maoist rebels who want to turn Nepal into a communist state say they are concerned Mr. Chand's resignation might delay the progress of peace talks. Two rounds of talks have taken place since a cease-fire was declared in January. Nepal's government has released several senior Maoist leaders from detention, and carried out a partial withdrawal of troops from Maoist areas. But the Maoists say they have yet to decide whether to join a third round of talks.

More than 7,000 people, mostly Maoists, have died since the rebels began their insurgency in 1996.

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