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New Nov. Elections Set for Nepal

May 23, 2002

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KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) _ Three of Nepal’s senior Cabinet ministers resigned Thursday to protest the king’s decision to dissolve Parliament and call for fresh elections in the midst of intense fighting against Maoist rebels.

At the recommendation of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, King Gyanendra dissolved Parliament just before midnight Wednesday and ordered elections for Nov. 13.

The decision came after the faction-riddled ruling Nepali Congress party refused to support the government plan to extend emergency rule, due to end Saturday.

``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.

Mahat resigned along with Education Minister Amod Prasad Upadhaya and Women and Social Welfare Minister Rajendra Kharel.

King Gyanendra imposed the emergency rule on Nov. 26. It suppresses press freedom and gives soldiers and police powers to detain without charge people suspected of supporting the rebels, who have fought for six years to overthrow the constitutional monarchy.

``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 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.

Jhalnath Khan, an influential member of the communist party, said the dissolution violated ``democratic norms.″

The state of emergency was declared after the rebels withdrew from stalemated peace talks and resumed attacks on police stations and government targets.

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

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