Nine top security officials suspended

Kathmandu: Nepal's new Government headed by Prime Minister G. P. Koirala is planning to issue a proclamation that will curtail the King's powers and privileges, the Finance Minister said on Saturday, but he declined to confirm reports that the monarch might have to pay taxes for the first time.

A declaration of Parliament asserting the sovereignty of the people and Parliament, which would have the effect of a law, is being prepared by the Government and is being discussed among the seven parties in the ruling alliance, Finance Minister Ram Saran Mahat said.

Discussions on

``The document will certainly curtail the King's power and privileges, this is certain, but what the specifics will be, we are discussing,'' Mr. Mahat said. ``It is definitely on the cards but it will be thoroughly discussed."

A Government official separately said the details being discussed included asking the King to pay taxes and reduce his palace budget, which, according to media reports, grew from Rs 120 million (Nepal) to Rs 600 million when he was running the Government. The official spoke on condition of anonymity citing parliamentary propriety.

People's aspirations

Mr. Mahat declined to confirm the details of the proclamation. ``I am sorry, I cannot go into the specifics,'' he said, adding that the proclamation would reflect the aspirations of the people.

Meanwhile, the Government on Saturday suspended nine top security officials, a day after arresting five former Cabinet ministers, in a crackdown on King Gyanendra's old royal regime.

The Government action came as Maoist leader Prachanda warned that the country faced another ``people's revolution'' if lawmakers broke their commitments to the rebels and defied ``republican sentiment.''

The nine high-ranking security officials included the heads of the police, armed police and the national investigation department. ``Friday's emergency Cabinet meeting took the decision to suspend the security officials,'' said Home Ministry Secretary Umesh Mainali.

State-run media reported that the officials were suspended for ``using excessive force against pro-democracy protesters.''

On Friday, four ex-ministers and one assistant minister including the former Home Minister, Information Minister and Foreign Minister were jailed for 90 days.

A family member of one of the ministers has said he was being held on charges of plotting against the new administration.

The new multi-party Government took power in late April after King Gyanendra was forced to give up absolute rule following nationwide pro-democracy protests that were backed by the rebels and left at least 19 persons dead.

New constitution

The King had sacked the government in February 2005, claiming it failed to tackle a bloody Maoist revolt that has left at least 12,500 dead.

The rebels confirmed in a statement Saturday that Prachanda will head the guerrilla side in planned peace talks to end the decade-long insurgency.

Parliament was restored by the King last month. It has pledged to hold elections for a constituent assembly meeting a key demand of the Maoist rebels to rewrite the constitution that would decide the future of the world's only Hindu monarchy.

The Maoists have battled since 1996 to install a single party Communist republic in the impoverished Himalayan nation sandwiched between India and China.

But they have since agreed to accept whatever constitution is agreed to by a new assembly and to function in a multi-party democratic system. AP, Agencies