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Nepal Reinstates Lower House of Parliament

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060425/ap_on_re_as/nepal;_ylt=AoONTr0r9Km5GoJODd_hxZKs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTA3b3JuZGZhBHNlYwM3MjE- Nepal Reinstates Lower House of
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 24, 2006

      Nepal Reinstates Lower House of Parliament

      By TIM SULLIVAN, Associated Press Writer 2 hours, 13
      minutes ago

      KATMANDU, Nepal - Nepal's embattled king appeared to
      defuse weeks of mass protests that have pushed this
      Himalayan country near the brink of anarchy,
      reinstating the lower house of parliament on Monday as
      his opponents had demanded.

      With few choices left and hoping to avoid a bloody
      showdown between demonstrators and his security
      forces, Gyanendra's announcement cleared the way for
      the creation of a new constitution that could leave
      him largely powerless, or even eliminate the monarchy.

      Gyanendra also expressed his sympathies for the 14
      demonstrators killed by his security forces in nearly
      three weeks of protests.

      "We extend our heartfelt condolences for all those who
      have lost their lives in the people's movement,"
      Gyanendra said in the address, broadcast on state
      television and radio.

      Nepal's three largest opposition parties welcomed the
      king's comments, and the sounds of celebratory shouts
      and whistles could be heard in the streets of Katmandu
      minutes after the 11:30 p.m. speech.

      Gyanendra "has addressed the spirit of the people's
      movement" and met the demands of the main opposition
      seven-party alliance, said Ram Chandra Poudel, general
      secretary of the Nepali Congress.

      Amid the increasing chaos, the State Department
      earlier Monday ordered all non-emergency embassy staff
      and family members to leave Nepal, according to an
      embassy spokesman, Robert Hugins.

      The king's address effectively handed power back to
      elected politicians hours before the largest planned
      protest yet, with hundreds of thousands of people
      expected to attend. The seven parties planned to meet
      Tuesday to call off the protests, party officials

      From now on, the seven-party opposition alliance would
      "bear the responsibility of taking the nation on the
      path of national unity and prosperity," Gyanendra said
      in his address.

      "We are confident the nation will forge ahead toward
      sustainable peace, progress, full-fledged democracy
      and national unity," said the king, sitting rigidly in
      front of a blue backdrop decorated with royal emblems.

      For much of the crisis, Gyanendra had remained silent
      and invisible, hidden behind the walls of his heavily
      guarded central Katmandu palace and kept in power
      because of the loyalty of his army and police.

      The reaction of Nepal's Maoist guerrillas, who have
      seized much of the rural heartland in a bloody
      decade-long quest for power and who had joined with
      the alliance to back the protests, remained unknown.

      However, their influence has surged with the protests,
      and they would almost certainly lobby for a role.

      In the Chabahal neighborhood of Katmandu, about 50
      people streamed into the street singing and clapping.

      "This is the people's victory! Long live democracy!"
      they chanted.

      "The people from every corner are pleased to come and
      celebrate," said Prakash Nepal, a 40-year-old bank
      employee among the crowd. Other rallies were reported
      elsewhere in the city.

      The reinstatement of Parliament was a key alliance

      The reinstated lower house, which the king called to
      convene Friday afternoon, was to create an interim
      government under the alliance's plan, which would then
      set up special elections for an assembly. That
      assembly, in turn, would write a new constitution.
      Parliament's lower house holds real elected power in
      Nepal's constitution.

      The constitution will almost certainly bring dramatic
      political changes. Most opposition leaders favor a
      constitution that would give Nepal a ceremonial
      monarchy, or simply eliminate the royalty completely.

      Adam Ereli, a State Department spokesman, called on
      the king to relinquish his authority, saying "We
      believe that he should now hand power over to the
      parties and assume a ceremonial role in his country's

      Protests have rocked Katmandu and many other towns for
      nearly three weeks, and police have clashed repeatedly
      with demonstrators demanding Gyanendra relinquish the
      absolute power he seized 14 months ago when he
      dismissed an interim government, saying he needed to
      bring order to the chaotic political situation and
      crush the Maoist insurgency.

      The interim government was one of many he had named to
      replace the parliament dissolved in 2002.

      The protests and general strike have paralyzed the
      country, with the capital locked down by repeated
      curfews, roads blocked by protesters, and food and
      fuel increasingly scarce.

      Protests had intensified since Friday, when Gyanendra
      offered to let the opposition alliance nominate a
      prime minister and form a government. On Saturday, one
      march even got within a few blocks of the palace.

      Opposition leaders and the Maoists rejected that offer
      because it did not include the return of parliament.


      Associated Press writers Binaj Gurubacharya and
      Matthew Rosenberg contributed to this report.
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