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Army’s Maoist slur draws flak

Kathmandu, June 23: The Nepal government today accused the Nepal Army of trying to sabotage the peace process between the Seven Party Alliance and the Maoist rebels.

Senior Nepali Congress leader and minister of agriculture and cooperatives Mahantha Thakur criticised the army for issuing statements aimed at disrupting the peace talks which is now at a critical juncture.

Referring to the army statement criticising Maoist supremo Prachanda last week, Thakur said the army brass should not have made the comments as the Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, who also holds the defence portfolio, is in Bangkok for prostate surgery.

Thakur said the army issued the statement on its own. “The statement by the army at a time when the Prime Minister is outside the country is not appropriate,” he said.

Reacting to Prachanda’s allegation that the army was “killing people and murdering Nepali women”, the army said it has always remained and will continue to remain committed to protecting the country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and the dignity of the people under the direct command of the prevailing constitutional government.

Prachanda had also suggested that since the army could not possibly fight with the Indian and Chinese armies, it should be downsized to around 20,000 personnel from its present strength of 90,000.

Participating in a discussion at the Reporters’ Club in Kathmandu today, Thakur said that several conspiracies were being hatched to thwart the peace process.

“The forthcoming election to the constituent assembly will not leave any form of monarchy,” he said. Thakur added that the royal palace continued to conspire against the people.

The minister also hailed the eight-point pact between the rebels and the alliance and hoped that it would help restore peace and stability in the country. “The agreement has brought the Maoists back into mainstream politics. This is a positive development,” Thakur added.

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