UN hails end of crisis in Nepal

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS
Friday, February 4, 2011

KATHMANDU - The UN has hailed the end of the seven-month political crisis in Nepal with the election of a new prime minister Thursday, urging the premier-elect not to fail the May 28 deadline for promulgating a new constitution.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the election of Jhalanath Khanal, chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, as the 34th prime minister of Nepal after 16 rounds of fruitless voting, saying the UN stood ready to support all efforts to complete the country’s peace process, including the adoption of a new constitution by May 28.

“The secretary-general commends (Nepal’s) parliament for this significant achievement and all Nepali parties and leaders for their efforts to form a new government,” a statement by Ban’s spokesperson late Thursday said.

“He believes this development will give a significant boost to efforts to fully implement their outstanding commitments under the Comprehensive Peace Accord and the interim constitution, notably the integration and rehabilitation of the Maoist combatants, democratisation of the army and adoption of a new constitution.”

The UN, which played a direct role in Nepal’s peace process from 2007 to mid-January this year, also appealed to all parties and political leaders in Nepal to work through consensus and compromise to achieve the desired goals.

Khanal won Thursday’s election with the backing of the opposition Maoist party, whose chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda withdrew from the race at the last minute in his favour.

The 61-year-old former school teacher has promised to address the biggest obstacle in the floundering peace process - demobilising the nearly 20,000 fighters belonging to the Maoists’ People’s Liberation Army.

During his poll speech in parliament Thursday, Khanal said the guerrilla fighters would be partly inducted in the security forces and partly rehabilitated within 90 days.

Though the last-minute poll alliance between the communists and the Maoists - whose union had broken down earlier in 2009 - came as a surprise, the formation of a new government however was welcomed by the international community.

“We look forward to working with incoming Prime Minister Khanal and continuing the warm and constructive relationship between the US and Nepal,” the US Embassy in Kathmandu said.

“We are hopeful (the election) will give renewed momentum to the peace process and constitution drafting. ”

John Tucknott, British ambassador to Nepal, said on behalf of the EU missions in Kathmandu as well as Norway and Switzerland, that they hoped the new PM will seek to build a broad coalition.

“We encourage the new government together with the other parties to take immediate steps to advance the peace process, draft the constitution and create the necessary conditions for increasing security, stability and prosperity for all Nepalis,” the statement said.

Japan also lauded the election of a new prime minister while Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh congratulated Khanal on the telephone soon after the election results were announced Thursday night.

On Friday, Qiu Guohong, the Chinese ambassador to Nepal, became the first foreign envoy to congratulate Khanal in person.

The envoy visited Khanal’s residence in Kathmandu to congratulate him and pledge China’s support for the new government.

The Indian ambassador to Nepal, Rakesh Sood, is currently in India for Nepal’s President Ram Baran Yadav’s official visit to India.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at sudeshna.s@ians.in)

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