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Nepal''s parliament sits after 5-month Maoist siege
Kathmandu, Nov 23 (IANS):
Published on 23 Nov. 2009 11:40 PM IST
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After a Maoist siege for nearly five months, Nepal's 601-member parliament convened Monday with the coalition government gearing up to pass the stalled budget. The former Maoist guerrillas, who had blockaded the house since the fall of their brief government in May, agreed to lift the siege for three days from Monday in order to allow the budget to be passed and rescue the government from a financial crisis. Though Finance Minister Surendra Pandey had tabled the budget in July, it could not be passed as the former rebels resumed their obstruction of the house, demanding that the government address their concerns. The resumption of the house Monday, however, saw a fresh war of words break out between the former guerrillas and the ruling party with the budget remaining on the backburner. Maoist lawmaker Narayan Kaji Shrestha accused the ruling parties of causing the fall of his party-led government under the influence of foreign powers while the Nepali Congress, the largest party in the ruling alliance, counter-accused the former rebels of holding the country hostage. Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal called a meeting of the top leaders to discuss how to pass the budget Tuesday. The ruling parties have issued a whip to all their lawmakers, including those outside the capital, to attend Tuesday's session and ensure the budget is passed. The Maoists, the largest party in the house but lacking majority, have also asked all their members of parliament to be present Tuesday, triggering speculation that there could be a ballot battle over the budget. Shrestha reminded the lawmakers that his party would resume its house siege after three days. The party has also announced a new round of street protests that will culminate in a three-day general strike nationwide from Dec 20. The Maoists are demanding a debate in parliament on the role played by President Ram Baran Yadav, earlier this year. Yadav reinstated the chief of the army sacked by the Maoist government, causing it to fall eventually. However, the ruling parties are not ready to allow such a debate, saying the issue is already in court.

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