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Prime Minister in Nepal Suspended

May 23, 2002

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KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) _ Nepal’s ruling party suspended the prime minister as a member Thursday to punish him for dissolving the parliament and calling fresh elections.

In another protest against the decision of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and King Gyanendra, three senior Cabinet ministers resigned Thursday.

The political infighting was part of a growing political crisis in Nepal, where the government is in the midst of a major battle against Maoist rebels.

Deuba remains prime minister until the Nov. 13 elections, but will not be able to campaign as a member of the Nepali Congress party. The party has won most of Nepal’s elections since democracy was restored under a constitutional monarchy in 1990.

The party, whose president is Deuba’s main rival, warned all the Cabinet ministers to stop supporting Deuba and resign within three days.

Deuba had asked King Gyanendra suddenly to call elections after a powerful faction of the party declared its opposition to a plan to extend the nation’s 6-month-old emergency rule until late November.

The decision, which requires a two-thirds vote in the national House of Representatives, was announced by the government without consulting the whole party.

The state of emergency suspends press freedom and allows police and soldiers to detain without charge anyone suspected of sympathizing with the rebels’ desire to install a communist government.

``Instead of complying with the party’s order to take back the proposal to extend emergency rule, he disobeyed the party and dissolved the parliament,″ party spokesman Arjun Narsingh said Thursday.

``We were not taken into confidence while making the decision to dissolve parliament, which at the moment is inappropriate,″ said Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat. He resigned from the government on Thursday, along with Education Minister Amod Prasad Upadhaya and Women and Social Welfare Minister Rajendra Kharel.

Deuba leads one faction in the party while the other is controlled by his predecessor, Girija Prasad Koirala.

``It is unfortunate that the feuds in the ruling Nepali Congress party have plunged the country into an uncertain and confusing situation,″ said Khadga Prasad Oli, deputy general secretary of the opposition United Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Nepal.

The last election was held in May 1999, when the Nepali Congress won 113 of parliament’s 205 seats and formed a government. Since then, leadership power struggles within the party have led to three prime ministers in as many years.

More than 3,500 people have been killed since the rebels began their violent campaign in 1996. More than half have died during the past five months as the army began sweeping rebel hide-outs.

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