Khanal, Prachanda close to deal on power sharing

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Shirish B Pradhan

Kathmandu, Feb 16 (PTI) Nepal''s new Prime MinisterJhalanath Khanal appeared to have reached an understandingwith the Maoists over sharing of government ministries, withindications that the former rebels may get 11 portfolios inthe new cabinet, including Home and Foreign Affairs.

The CPN-UML and the CPN-Maoists were sparring overpower sharing for over 10 days when the new prime minister wassworn in, making it impossible for the government to function.

However, CPN-UML leader Khanal and Maoist chiefPrachanda appear to have reached an understanding during ameeting the two held today, increasing the possibility of thelargest party joining the government in a day or two.

Earlier, the Maoists had threatened that they wouldnot join the government if the seven-point agreement reachedbetween the two top leaders prior to Khanal''s election, is notimplemented.

During the meeting today, Prime Minister Khanal isbelieved to have agreed to concede 11 ministerial portfolios,including Home and Foreign Affairs to the Maoists, and keepeight for his CPN-UML party, Maoist sources said.

"We have tentatively discussed the power sharingissues and the Home and Foreign are likely to be allocated forour party," said Maoist spokesman Dinanath Sharma.

He, however, said that the final decision will betaken after the party''s high-level meeting endorses thedecision tomorrow.

Krishna Bahadur Mahara, foreign department chief ofthe party, is likely to be made deputy prime minister, sourcesclose to the Maoist said.

However, press advisor to Prime Minister Surya Thapaappeared more cautious in revealing the details of today''smeetings.

He told PTI that though the two leaders haddiscussions regarding portfolio distribution, no finaldecision has so far been made regarding key ministriesincluding Home and Foreign.

The matter will be settled after the CentralCommittee meeting of the party tomorrow, he said.

However, in the high-level meeting tomorrow, Khanal islikely to face strong opposition from the moderate groupwithin the party, led by former Prime Minister Madhav KumarNepal and K P Sharma Oli, over his reported deal withPrachanda on power sharing, particularly on giving HomeMinistry to the Maoists.

Senior leader of the party Oli was not allowed toenter the Prime Minister''s official residence today sparking adebate within the ruling party.

Oli has strongly opposed the 7-point pact betweenPrime Minister Khanal and Maoist chief Prachanda that wasreached before the latter stepped out of the prime ministerialrace in favour of the former. .

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