- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 28, 2008

KATMANDU, Nepal [-] A bombing in Nepal’s capital of Katmandu yesterday heightened tension ahead of a historic vote today by a Maoist-led government to abolish the nation’s 240-year-old Hindu monarchy.”It was a small bomb in a public park near the venue where a pro-republican cultural program was set to be held,” Katmandu Police Chief Sarbendra Khanal told Reuters news agency. He said one person was injured and that police were able to defuse a second bomb.A pro-monarchy group took responsibility for the explosion.Nepal opens a constitutional convention today, in which Maoists won the biggest bloc of seats. The first order of business will be to end the monarchy and establish Nepal as the world’s first new republic of the 21st century.Jhalnath Khanal, general secretary of the Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist-Leninist), one of three main parties, said the new government plans to turn the royal palace into a museum.”All privileges and perks enjoyed by the king will be terminated,” he said.King Gyanendra has so far ignored demands by leaders of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), or CPN-M, to leave the royal palace.”If he refuses to leave the palace, we will use the law to force him out of there,” the Maoist’s No. 2 leader, Baburam Bhattarai, said yesterday.Members of the 601-member parliament, known as the Constituent Assembly, took oath of office at the International Conference Center, using many of the 40 different ethnic languages of Nepal.”A republic will be declared tomorrow,” Mr. Bhattarai said after taking the oath. “Once a republic is declared, the king will automatically lose his position and place in the palace.”Security was tightened around Katmandu’s main thoroughfares, especially around the palace and the conference center.A pro-monarchy group calling itself Ranabir Army said it detonated yesterday’s bomb. Six people were injured.A day earlier, a pro-Hindu militant group set off two small bombs outside the convention center. No one was injured.The assembly was elected last April to draft a new constitution. In the elections, former Maoist rebels emerged as the largest party with 220 seats, followed by 110 seats of the Nepali Congress party and 103 seats for the Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist-Leninist).

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