Nepal''s cabinet expansion put off

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Shirish B Pradhan

Kathmandu, Feb 17 (PTI) Nepalese Premier Jhala NathKhanal''s CPN-UML today failed to strike a power-sharing dealwith Maoists apparently over the issue of key portfolios ofHome and Foreign demanded by the former rebels, delaying theexpansion of his four-member cabinet indefinitely.

Khanal was expected to expand his new cabinet todaybut the tussle over the power sharing issue continued betweenthe two Left parties.

The CPN-UML has now formed a team comprising Khanal,senior leaders Madhav Kumar Nepal, Ishwor Pokharel and K PSharma Oli to start fresh negotiations with the Maoists andother political parties following a high level meeting,according to the party''s sources.

On the other hand the Maoists decided not to join thegovernment immediately. They are demanding key portfoliosincluding Home and Foreign.

Though, Prime Minister Khanal had earlier assuredMaoist chief Prachanda that he would give them Home and otherkey portfolios, the decision was opposed by his own partycolleagues.

At the moment there are only three ministers besidesthe Prime Minister in Khanal''s cabinet.

Senior UML-leader Bharat Mohan Adhikari has beengiven the portfolio of Finance with Deputy Prime Minister''sposition while other two members of the cabinet Bishnu Poudyaland Ganga Lal Tuladhar are without portfolios even a weekafter their appointment due to the tussle between the twolargest communist parties over power sharing.

Reports had said yesterday that Khanal appeared tohave reached an understanding with the Maoists over sharing ofgovernment ministries, with indications that the former rebelsmay get 11 portfolios in the new cabinet, including Home andForeign Affairs.

The CPN-UML and the CPN-Maoists were sparring overpower sharing for over 11 days when the new prime minister wassworn in, making it impossible for the government to function.

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.

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