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Nepal's prime minister resigns

NEPAL'S prime minister resigned yesterday amid a power struggle over his firing of the army chief, saying he was stepping down to "save the peace process" that brought the Himalayan nation out of a bloody decade-long civil war.

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, a former Maoist guerrilla leader, made the announcement the day after his firing of army chief Rookmangud Katawal was rejected by President Ram Baran Yadav.

"The unconstitutional and undemocratic move by the president has pushed the country toward a serious political crisis. The president has no power to act alone without prior approval of the Cabinet on such matters," Dahal said in his resignation speech. "It is a fatal attack on the infant democracy."

Hours later, the Maoists vowed to launch protests and shut down the government. "We have decided to begin mass protests and stall parliament until the president takes back his decision," said Maoist spokesman Nath Sharma.

The party has substantial support in rural areas and is capable of gathering tens of thousands of people to take to the streets of Katmandu and other cities in Nepal for demonstrations.

The nation's Maoists fought a bloody, 10-year war against the government before joining the political mainstream in 2006, and then winning the most votes during elections last year that helped bring an end to the Himalayan country's centuries-old monarchy.

But despite the Maoists' rise to power, many of their former fighters remain restricted to United Nations-monitored barracks under a peace accord.

Dahal wanted the guerrillas freed and integrated into the military. But the army chief resisted those efforts.


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