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Nepal Appoints New Prime Minister - 2003-06-04

Nepal's king has named a royalist politician, Surya Bahadur Thapa, as the country's new prime minister. His appointment is not likely to placate main political parties in the mountain kingdom.

Surya Bahadur Thapa, 75, belongs to the same pro-monarchist party, the National Democratic Party, as his predecessor, who resigned last week after widespread protests by the country's five main political parties.

The opposition parties were not happy with the interim administration, which King Gyanendra set up last year after he dissolved parliament.

After the prime minister Lokendra Bahadur Chand stepped down last Friday, the political parties asked the King to name their candidate, a senior leader of the Nepal Communist Party, Madhav Kumar Nepal, as prime minister.

King Gyanendra did not comply with that request, but he has asked the new prime minister to include members from all main political parties in his cabinet.

Mr. Thapa has been prime minister of Nepal four times earlier. Although he is a royalist, he had joined the other political parties in criticizing the King for firing the elected prime minister and postponing elections.

Political analysts say seeking reconciliation will be an uphill task for Mr. Thapa.

The country's main political parties are calling for the reinstatement of parliament, and fresh elections in the mountain kingdom. Tens of thousands of activists joined street protests earlier in the week in support of their demands.

King Gyanendra dismissed the elected government last October, saying it was incapable of providing security for elections while a Maoist insurgency wracked the mountain kingdom.

Since then, Maoist rebels and the interim administration have signed a truce and held two rounds of peace talks.

But the main political parties have refused to join the negotiations, and the turmoil of the past eight months has slowed down efforts to return peace to the country.