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Nepal's Interim Government Shows Signs of Fraying

Nepal again has been thrust into political confusion just two weeks after a landmark interim government was formed. The country's elderly prime minister was a no-show for an emergency session of his cabinet on Sunday. That prevented coalition leaders from holding a critical meeting to set a new date for national elections. As VOA's Steve Herman reports from Kathmandu, members of the interim government, including the Maoists, are warning of the dangers of delaying the polls.

A meeting of Nepal's coalition government leaders to decide a new election date did not take place Sunday. Those who gathered for the emergency meeting were stood up by the prime minister.

Former deputy prime minister Amik Sherchan, representing the People's Front Nepal, says those at the prime minister's office were given no reason for the absence of the ailing government leader, 85-year-old Girija Prasad Koirala.

Sherchan told reporters outside the prime minister's office that the group waited more than two hours for Mr. Koirala. But the prime minister did not come into the meeting room and nobody was able to speak with him.

An interim government, including the Maoists and seven other parties, was created April 1st and the Maoists were given relatively minor posts in the cabinet.

The Maoists have now, threatened to pull out of the interim government if the election is delayed and called for Nepal's unpopular king, Gyanendra, to be dethroned ahead of the polling.

Esteem for the royal family plummeted following a palace massacre in 2001 and the current king's attempt to seize absolute power in 2005.

The Maoists, until last year, waged a decade-long campaign to overthrow the monarchy. The violence claimed 14,000 lives.

Rebel leaders last November agreed to a peace deal to end their uprising and have since registered as a political party for the elections to select lawmakers for a constituent assembly. That election had been scheduled for June 20 but Nepal's election commission says due to technical issues and security concerns that is much too soon for nationwide polling.

The Maoists, in recent days, have called the proposal to delay the election a political conspiracy. They have threatened to resume their struggle outside government, although it is unclear whether that would mean again taking up arms. Their soldiers and weapons have been placed in camps supervised by the United Nations.

Hundreds of Maoists came out of their barracks in southern Nepal on Saturday, in violation of an accord signed with the U.N., to protest the delay in the election.

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