Army should be free from political intervention: Nepal Army Chief

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Kathmandu, Aug 30 (UNI) At a time when the Maoists-led government is preparing to integrate its nearly 20,000 former guerilla fighters in the army, Nepal Army Chief Rukmangad Katuwal today said the army should be free from political intervention, clearly opposing the idea of integration.

''The state army cannot be influenced by any party or group,'' General Katuwal said speaking at a temple inauguration ceremony in eastern Nepal.

''The NA is a liability of general people, only the public has the right to use it,'' he said clearly opposing the Maoists government's plan for integration of Communist ideology indoctrinated combatants into the Army.

Mr Katuwal said even the idea of parties' intervention in the army is a betrayal to the general people. ''The NA will always be free from the political intervention,'' Kantipur quoted him as saying.

Defence Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa, who is known as ''Comrade Badal'' has said recently that the Maoists combatants, currently living in the UN monitoried camps, will be integrated within 3 to 6 months.

Nepali Congress (NC) was insisting that the Maoists cannot hold the defence ministry portfolio saying it cannot lead the two armies -- nearly 20,000 combatants living in the camps and the national army at the same time. NC did not join the government after the Maoists refused to allocate defence ministry to it.

With the statement of the army chief, the process of integration seems to be complex as Nepal's second largest party, the Nepali Congress, which is nationally and internationally recognised as the major democratic party in the Himalayan nation, has also opposed the idea of directly integrating Maoists combatants into the national army.

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