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5 Maoists sworn in as ministers in Nepal's new govt

By Shirish B Pradhan in Kathmandu
April 01, 2007 16:46 IST
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Taking forward the peace process that ended the decade-old insurgency in Nepal, five Maoists were sworn in on Sunday as ministers in the new interim government headed by Prime Minister Girija Parasad Koirala.

This new government has been tasked with steering the nation into the June 20 constituent assembly polls.

84-year-old Koirala, who was unanimously appointed prime minister by Nepal's interim Parliament, administered the oath of office to 16 cabinet ministers and five ministers of state, including the Maoists.

Ramchandra Poudyal of the Nepali Congress, who got the Peace and Rehabilitation portfolio, is the seniormost in the 22-member cabinet while Krishna Banahdur Mahara, who took oath as the Minister for Information and communication, is the seniormost among the Maoist representatives.

The Foreign Ministry will be taken over by Sahana Pradhan of the UML.

Ramsharan Mahato of the Nepali Congress is the finance minister while Krishna Sitaula of the same party has been given the portfolio of the home minister.

Rajendra Mahat is the Minister of Industry and Commerce.

Besides Mahara, among the Maoists, Dev Gurung took over as the Local Development Minister, Matrika Yadav as the minister for Forests, Hisila Yami as the minister for Physical Planning and Works and Khadga Bahadur Biswokarma is the minister for Women, Children and Social Welfare.

"Holding of the Constituent Assembly elections on time and to provide relief to the people will be the primary agenda of the new government," Maoist chief Prachanda said, after attending the oath-taking ceremony.

"It's a historic day for Nepal," Prachanda told reporters. "A new process of making a new Nepal as begun now and our responsibility has increased."

Regarding his party's stand on making Nepal a republic, Prachanda said, "During today's eight-party meeting, it was agreed that if the monarchy tries to obstruct the Constituent Assembly elections, then the government would include a provision to abolish the monarchy by two-third majority in Parliament."

He also stated that the ministers of his party will accept the security provided by the government as per the prevailing rule.

Earlier on Sunday, Nepal's interim Parliament unanimously approved the appointment of Koirala as the head of the new unity government inclusive of Maoists.

After taking the oath of office, Koirala said it was '(the) beginning of a new chapter in the political history of Nepal' with the inclusion of Maoists in the government.

"I urge all to leave behind all minor differences and move forward together to get to our goals," he said.

He sought cooperation from all parties and advised them to be patient.

Koirala, who has been appointed as the prime minister for the sixth time, said his government will give priority to maintaining law and order in the country.

"The government will be fully devoted to establishing peace and security in the country," he said.

The top leaders of the eight political parties also decided that the Constituent Assembly polls will be held on June 20. The polls will elect a body tasked with rewriting Nepal's constitution that includes deciding the future of the country's monarchy.

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Shirish B Pradhan in Kathmandu
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