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    Prachanda cancels visit to China amid deepening Nepal crisis

    Kathmandu (PTI): Prime Minister Prachanda on Saturday called off a crucial visit to China next week amid deepening political crisis over Maoist-led government's move to sack the army chief.

    Prime Minister Prachanda has been involved in a standoff with the Nepal Army after he threatened to sack the Army Chief Rukmangad Katawal on allegations that he had disobeyed the government.

    "The prime minister has put his China visit on hold due to the political developments," Prachanda’s media advisor Om Sharma told reporters.

    He said the visit from May 2 has been put off as it would not be appropriate for him to leave the country at a time of crisis among the political parties over the clarification issue with the army chief.

    Nepal marked the third anniversary of the establishment of democracy on Friday amid sharp differences among key political parties and a standoff between the ruling Maoists and the army that threatens to derail the stalled landmark peace process in the Himalayan state.

    Seventeen political parties, including ruling CPN-UML and main opposition Nepali Congress have opposed the Maoists’ move to demoralize the national army, triggering a political crisis in the country.

    According to analysts, the row with the army could derail the peace process in the Himalayan state.

    General Katawal has opposed the integration of more than 19,000 Maoist "indoctrinated" former guerrillas into the army as it would destroy the neutral character of the national force.

    The root of the crisis in Nepal is traced to allegation that Katawal had disobeyed the Maoist government by openly defying its order to halt recruitment to the army.

    The standoff between the former rebels and the top commander worsened after the army refused to retire eight brigadier-generals and went to court for their reinstatement.

    The army yesterday dismissed media reports that it had planned a "soft coup" in the country.

    The Prachanda-led government has come under pressure from the international community, which is worried that the political crisis could derail the peace process in the country.

    The Prime Minister on Thursday called a meeting of 15 foreign envoys, including ambassadors from India, China, USA, UK, France, Germany, Japan, Norway and Finland, to justify the government's tough action against the Amry Chief and convince them that the Maoists do not aim to capture power by controlling the military.

    Prachanda's earlier visit to China had sparked a row in Nepal and India as it was departure from tradition where Nepalese leaders make New Delhi the first port of call after taking office.

    The planed May 2 visit was crucial to the bilateral ties as a key peace and friendship treaty was scheduled to be inked between the two neighbours.

    The Maoists, who waged a decade-long insurgency, joined mainstream politics after a 2006 peace deal with the interim government led by G. P. Koirala. The CPN-Maoist formed the government in Nepal last year after it emerged as the largest party in the April constitutional assembly polls.


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