An indefinite strike is to continue in Nepal with no agreement to end the Himalayan nation's political crisis. Lawmakers are supposed to formulate a new constitution in little more than three weeks. That is also the deadline to place the former Maoist combatants into the Army or reintegrate them into civil society. However, there is no movement towards completing those tasks because of the political standoff.
Nepal's top three political parties resumed meeting after a hiatus of several days and again failed to reach an accord. In a brief encounter with reporters afterwards - at which no questions were taken - the representatives of the three key parties acknowledged that while there was no breakthrough they have agreed to continue dialog in order to forge a "national consensus."
Former tourism minister Pradeep Gyawali is a central committee member of the prime minister's United Marxist Leninist Party. He tells VOA News Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal remains prepared to quit - as the Maoists demand - but not unconditionally.
"He's ready provided we can develop an agenda, a roadmap of the national consensus then he will definitely cooperate. He will not be the obstacle. He will resign," he said.
As promised, the Maoists increased the pressure on the streets of the capital, during the fourth day of an indefinite nationwide strike that has paralyzed commerce.
Thousands of cadres and their supporters surrounded the Singha Durbar, where the prime minister's office and most ministries are located. Riot police blocked key intersections to prevent protesters from getting too close to the key government complex.
So far, Nepal's Army remains out of sight. But they are making their presence known, subtle it may be.
Several hundred meters from the potential flash point between the riot police and demonstrators, the soldiers marched to the tune of bagpipers inside their walled camp on the grounds of the Singha Durbar.
Political analysts say deploying the Army would come only in the most desperate of circumstances. If they were to confront the demonstrators the Maoists are nearly certain to release the former guerillas from U.N.-supervised camps, plunging the country back into civil war.
Steve Herman's video report
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is urging the government and political parties to remove all impediments to agreement, noting that failure to meet the May 28 deadline for a new constitution would work in favor of those who oppose the aims of the 2006 peace agreement. In a report to the Security Council, Mr. Ban also calls for extending the mandate of the U.N. Mission in Nepal beyond its May 15 deadline.
Meanwhile, UNICEF and the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal, in a joint statement, are expressing concern about the use of children in the Maoist's street demonstrations. The organizations say this "places them at risk of violence and exposes them to potentially dangerous situations."