Koirala asks army to halve Nepal's palace security

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Kathmandu, Oct 2 (UNI) Nepal Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has ordered Nepal Army (NA) to cut the security at Narayanhiti Royal Palace to half its present strength .

Mr Koirala issued the order to Army Chief Rookmangud Katawal, a day after King Gyanendra visited Kumari Ghar at Hanumandhoka to seek the blessings of the living Goddess Kumari without prior government knowledge, Kantipur reported.

''The Prime Minister has ordered the Army Chief to pull out half of the NA personnel from the palace,'' Minister for Peace and Reconstruction Ram Chandra Poudel said at a function organised here.

King Gyanendra sought blessings of the child goddess on Sunday, the last day of Indra Jatra festival, hours after Mr Koirala recieved the auspicious red vermillion paste on his forehead at Basantapur from Shree Kumari, Shree Ganesh and Shree Bhairav.

The annual ritual is considered crucial to preserve the monarch's power.

Following this the Prime Minister sought a clarification from the Principal Secretary at the Palace Pashupati Bhakta Maharjan about the intention behind the King's move and whether he wanted a ''confrontation''.

Earlier this year the government decided to discontinue the age-old tradition of the king receiving 'tika' from the Living Goddess after the interim parliament transferred the powers of head of state to the Prime Minister.

CPN-UML leader Bamdev Gautam stated that the king's activities were a challenge to pro-democratic forces. ''The king should declare himself a common citizen at the earliest and accept whatever arrangements the state makes for him,'' he added.

However, Senior Maoist leader Mohan Baidya said that there was no need to raise a ''hue and cry'' over the incident as it was just a continuation of the king's conspiracies. ''It shows PM's government has failed," he claimed.

UNI

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