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Maoists ultimatum to block Kathmandu airport
Kathmandu, Oct 28 (IANS):
Published on 28 Oct. 2009 10:28 PM IST
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Nepal's former Maoist guerrillas, whose ultimatum to the coalition government ends Nov 1, have warned they would launch a blockade of Kathmandu valley and the Himalayan nation's only international airport if their demands are not met within the deadline. 'We will not allow any aircraft to take off (from the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu) or any aircraft to land,' Maoist daily Janadisha said Wednesday. The blockade of the valley and the airport has been called Nov 10, after a series of protest programmes that include encircling government offices and declaring the formation of autonomous states. The announcement came after the top leaders of the formerly outlawed party decided that there was little possibility of reaching an agreement with the ruling parties. The Maoists, who had won the election last year and headed the government for eight months, are now demanding a virtual censure of President Ram Baran Yadav, who stepped into their dispute with the chief of the army earlier this year and triggered the fall of their government. They are also asking for the dissolution of the current 22-party government headed by communist leader Madhav Kumar Nepal and the formation of a new ruling alliance under their stewardship. The possibility of the two warring sides reaching an agreement receded farther this week when the former rebels stoned the car of former prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, whose Nepali Congress party is the second-largest in parliament after the Maoists. The announcement of fresh protests by the Maoists has sent ripples of unease across the international community. The Indian ambassador to Nepal Rakesh Sood Wednesday met the prime minister while the charge d'affaires at the American Embassy, Jeffrey Moon, held talks with Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda. The announcement of the protests comes at a time Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma is in Kathmandu to attend a meet of regional ministers on trade. In early November, the home secretaries of India and Nepal are scheduled to hold two-day talks in Kathmandu and an escalation in Maoist protests is likely to cause a setback to the talks. Officials from both countries are also scheduled to meet in Kathmandu in late November to discuss sharing water resources. Any fresh political turmoil will further delay the implementation of the Pancheswor multipurpose project, a mega 6000 MW project that has not yet seen the light of day though the treaty envisioning it was signed by the governments of both countries in 1996. The ongoing protests by the Maoists raise fresh doubts about whether Nepal's peace process will be concluded by 2010 with the promulgation of a new constitution. The former rebels have also kept up a blockade of parliament virtually since May, causing a grave financial crisis since the government has not been able to pass its budget for the current financial year.

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