- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 5, 2009

KATMANDU, Nepal — Nepal’s prime minister, a former guerrilla leader turned politician, resigned Monday after a power struggle with the president while his party vowed to launch mass protests and shut down parliament.

The resignation threw the impoverished Himalayan nation into turmoil as political leaders scrambled to adjust and security officials prepared for large demonstrations.

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal made the announcement on television Monday afternoon, one day after his attempt to fire the army chief was blocked by President Ram Baran Yadav, who belongs to the main opposition party and officially leads the army.

In his resignation speech, Mr. Dahal accused Mr. Yadav of “a fatal attack on the infant democracy.”

He said he stepped down “to create a conducive environment and save the peace process.”

Nepal’s Maoists fought a bloody 10-year war against the government before joining the political mainstream in 2006 and then winning the most votes during elections last year that helped bring an end to the country’s centuries-old monarchy.

The Maoists vowed Monday to launch demonstrations and shut down the government in protest of the president’s actions.

The party has deep support in rural Nepal and would likely be able to gather tens of thousands of people in the streets of Katmandu and other cities.

Home Ministry official Navin Ghimire said security forces were preparing to deal with potential unrest.

“We are expecting trouble and are prepared to stop violence in the streets,” Mr. Ghimire said.

The dispute between Mr. Dahal and Mr. Yadav centered on the Maoists’ former fighters who remain restricted to U.N.-monitored barracks under a peace accord. Mr. Dahal wanted the guerrillas freed and integrated into the military, as prescribed under a U.N.-brokered peace agreement. But army chief Rookmangud Katawal resisted those efforts and has sparred repeatedly with the government.

Mr. Dahal, who took office in August, fired Mr. Katawal on Sunday, prompting a key political party to withdraw from the Maoist-led ruling coalition. Hours later, Mr. Yadav reversed the decision, provoking the resignation.

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