- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 2, 2005

From combined dispatches

KATMANDU, Nepal — King Gyanendra unveiled a new 10-member Cabinet in Nepal today, a day after sacking the government and imposing an indefinite state of emergency.

In an announcement carried by state television and radio, the monarch named Ramesh Nath Pandey as foreign minister in a Cabinet that also includes a communist, Radha Krishna Mainali, in charge of sports and education.

The king announced yesterday that he would lead the new government and said the previous administration had failed to ensure security in the face of the Maoist rebellion that has claimed more than 11,000 lives since 1996.

The new lineup also includes Pravatar Shumsher Rana as finance minister and Dan Bahadur Shahi as home minister.

Demonstrations were expected in the country later today to protest the king’s decision, but details were scarce, with all telephone lines and mobile telephone networks down.

The king has taken power for the next three years and placed many politicians under house arrest, Indian press said.

“I have decided to dissolve the government because it has failed to make necessary arrangements to hold elections by April and promote democracy, the sovereignty of the people, and life and property,” the king said in an address on state radio.

He said a new government would be formed under his leadership to “restore peace and effective democracy in this country within the next three years,” the Press Trust of India said.

Shortly afterward, a state of emergency was declared, PTI said, quoting Nepal’s state-run television.

International flights were turned back from the airport in Katmandu, and Nepalese news Web sites went down, although road links with India remained open.

The airport was reopened later yesterday, and a state-run Royal Nepal Airlines flight arrived in the Indian capital, New Delhi. It was not known when other flights would resume.

In Katmandu, armored vehicles patrolled the streets and security was beefed up, PTI said. But Matthew Kahane, resident coordinator for the United Nations in Nepal, said the situation seemed calm.

The strategic Himalayan nation sandwiched between India and China is locked in a three-way struggle among the king, the rebels and bitterly divided political parties.

Sacked Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba was Nepal’s 13th prime minister in its 14 turbulent years as a constitutional monarchy. Nepal has had no parliament since 2002.

In a strongly worded statement, India said the move would bring the monarchy and mainstream parties into direct confrontation and would strengthen the Maoists.

New Delhi had been trying to persuade the king to form a front with political parties against the Maoists, and one analyst described the king’s decision as a “snub” for India, Nepal’s largest trading partner.

Nepal is the world’s only Hindu kingdom. Many people still view the king as a reincarnation of the god Vishnu.

But the monarchy’s reputation dived in 2001 when Crown Prince Dipendra killed his father, the popular King Birendra, and several other members of the royal family in a palace massacre. The prince then turned the gun on himself.

Gyanendra was crowned king after the massacre, but never has been as popular as brother Birendra and is accused of overstepping his powers.

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