Maoists, UML striking deal for presidentship in Nepal

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Kathmandu, Jun 19: Hectic parleys among three major political parties, CPN-Maoist, CPN-UML and Nepali Congress (NC) in the Himalayan republic has led to a breakthrough on the issues of army integration and constitution amendment while the parties pledged for negotiation on ''power-sharing'' today amid speculation that Maoists and UML have struck deal for president's post.

''If Maoists strongly object to Mr Girija Prasad Koirala as presidential candidate, UML will have a reasonable claim for the top post,'' UML outgoing General Secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal was quoted as saying by Kantipur. He also said the parties should agree on the UML's claim for the post. He, however, refused to say whom the UML would propose as presidential candidate. There are speculations that Maoists and the UML have struck a political deal. An NC leader, requesting anonymity said the UML and Maoist have struck a deal on the issue of the next president.

During today's meeting, UML General Secretary Jhalanath Khanal strongly backed Maoist Chairman Prachanda's proposal that the CA would decide on the next President.

The leader said UML General Secretary Khanal, during the meeting, also said that his party would stake claim for the post.

A source close to UML said the Maoists have assured UML they would support Sahana Pradhan for post of president.

The meeting of the three parties, held at Prime Minister and NC President Girija Prasad Koirala's official residence in Baluwatar, agreed to form a special committee to prepare a framework for integrating the two armies -- Nepali Army and People's Liberation Army.

''The special committee will comprise experts and representatives from political parties,'' NC leader Bimalendra Nidhi who was present during the meeting was quoted as saying by Kantipur.

He said the committee will decide the criteria and process of integration. The meeting agreed to complete the integration of the two armies in six months.

A proposal to amend the constitution is likely to be tabled at the Constituent Assembly meeting tomorrow.

The meeting directed the three-party task force to prepare a final draft of amendment to the constitution and implementation of the peace accord and present it at the three-party meeting tomorrow morning.

During the meeting, Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ''Prachanda'' insisted on implementing the amendment to constitution and an agreement on the return of confiscated property first, and to let the Constituent Assembly decide who will be the next president.

UNI

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