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Nepalese Prime Minister Steps Down, Hopes to Resolve Political Stalemate


Nepalese Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal has resigned, bowing to demands by Maoists that he step aside to make way for a national unity government.

Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal announced he was stepping down in a nationally televised address on Wednesday. He said he is resigning so that the political deadlock in the country can be resolved.

Mr. Nepal became prime minister last year, heading a coalition government after a Maoist-led government resigned. But widespread protests by the Maoists, who want to return to power, made it difficult for his government to function.

In a deal struck with main political parties last month, Prime Minister Nepal agreed to resign to make way for a power sharing government. But so far, the main parties in the country have been unable to agree on the form that the national government should take.

Mr. Nepal told the nation that during the last month, he has been urging political parties to find a way out of the political deadlock.

But he said that because no agreement has been reached, he decided not to prolong a situation of confusion and indecision. And he expressed his commitment to furthering peace in Nepal.

Maoists leaders welcomed the prime minister's resignation and said they will try to reach a consensus with the other political parties on a new national government.

But that consensus might not be easy to reach. The Maoists, who are the biggest party in parliament, want to head the government. The other parties, however, want the Maoists to first dismantle camps housing their former fighters -- a demand they have refused.

The Maoists ended their decade-long violent insurgency in 2006, and went on to win elections in 2008. But they did not gain a working majority in parliament. Since then, political stability has eluded the country.

The main casualty of the political strife has been the process of drafting a new constitution. Under the peace accord with the Maoists, the interim legislature was to have prepared a new constitution by last month. But the near political paralysis in the country has made that virtually impossible, and the deadline has now been extended to next year.

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