Formation of Nepal cabinet put off amid ''secret'' deal row

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Shirish B. Pradhan

Kathmandu, Feb 7 (PTI) The formation of Nepal''s newcabinet was put off today for the second consecutive day withthe CPN-UML failing to finalise a power sharing pact with itskey ally Maoists, amid reports that the new prime minister hasagreed to hand over the top job to Prachanda on May 24.

The cabinet formation by Jhalanath Khanal, who wassworn in as Nepal''s new Prime Minister yesterday, waspostponed today as UCPN-Maoist and CPN-UML could not forge apower sharing agreement.

As the meetings between top leaders of UCPN-Maoist andCPN-UML failed to reach any agreement today, the formation ofcabinet was put off for the second consecutive day.

According to party sources, Khanal and Prachanda hadreached a seven-point "secret" deal before the Maoist chiefwithdrew his candidacy from the Prime Ministerial race infavour of the Communist leader on February 3.

According to a report in financial daily Arthik�Abhiyan, Khanal has agreed to hand over the governmentleadership to Prachanda on May 24, four days ahead of thestipulated deadline to promulgate the new constitution,realising that it would not be drafted by May 28.

CPN-UML leader Pradip Gyawali, however, said he had noinformation about any such agreement with specific date tohand over power to the Maoists.

The seven point "secret" deal includes provisions thatthe government will be led by rotation by the communists andthe Maoists, both Khanal and Prachand heading the armyintegration mechanism and setting up of separate unit for theMaoist combatants within the army as part of the process forthe integration of the former guerrillas.

Under the deal, the Maoists and the CPN-UML have alsoagreed to share key cabinet posts, including Home, Defence andFinance.

The Maoists are sticking to the deal and have evenwarned to withdraw support to the government if the "secret"pact is not implemented, according to sources close toCPN-UML.

However, Khanal is hesitant to implement the deal amida backlash in the party over the agreement.

CPN-UML standing committee is holding a crucialmeeting today to discuss key matters, including the "secret"deal with the Maoists.

Nepali Congress has already condemned the deal, sayingthat it has breached the peace agreement and the interimconstitution.

The Central Working Committee meeting of the NepaliCongress yesterday flayed the seven-point "secret agreement"linked to the peace process and the monitoring of the arms andthe army of the former Maoist combatants.

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