Prachanda aims to hold talks with Bush, Ban Ki-moon

September 20th, 2008 - 3:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Sep 20 (IANS) After his meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Nepal’s first Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” is now aiming to hold talks with US President George W. Bush and UN chief Ban Ki-moon.Prachanda, who returned to Kathmandu Thursday after a five-day official visit to India, is leaving for New York Saturday to attend the 63rd UN General Assembly.

The prime minister’s office said the former revolutionary would take part in high-level discussions on meeting millennium development goals as well as conferences on poverty and food scarcity alleviation.

Prachanda, who once had a worldwide police alert for his capture, would also attend the welcome ceremonies to be separately hosted by Ban and Bush.

The Maoists, despite signing a peace pact two years ago, are still regarded as a terrorist organisation in the US. Though Washington has begun relaxing its attitude towards them after the sea change that overtook Nepal with the fall of king Gyanendra’s regime in 2006 and former US president Jimmy Carter’s repeated calls to his government to begin communication with the former guerrillas.

The PMO said that the Maoist chief, who last month quit his position as the supreme commander of the guerrilla People’s Liberation Army, would hold bilateral talks with Ban on the sidelines of the assembly.

The UN is keen on extending the work of its agency involved in Nepal’s peace process, the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), a political mission that is supervising the arms and combatants of the Maoists.

Hectic efforts are on to schedule a meeting between Bush and the Maoist chief. Prachanda told the constituent assembly Friday that he would be meeting Bush during his New York visit.

In 2005, after he seized absolute power with the help of the army, king Gyanendra had attempted to attend the UN general assembly in a bid to defend his move and gain international acceptance.

However, he had to abandon his plan after Washington snubbed his overture and the US president excluded the king from the dinner he was hosting for the other attending heads of state.

Prachanda will be accompanied by his wife Sita Poudel, who had also gone to China and India with him, as well as Chief Secretary Bhojraj Ghimire and Foreign Secretary Gyan Chandra Acharya.

He is scheduled to return Sep 30.

It remains to be seen how the other parties, especially the opposition, react to the PM’s long absence.

The Maoist-led government Friday unveiled its first budget with an outlay of Nepali Rs.236,15 billion - the biggest so far - which was criticised as ambitious and populist by the opposition Nepali Congress party.

While earmarking the biggest portion for education - a whopping Nepali Rs.38.98 billion, followed by health (Nepali Rs.15.58 billion) and roads (Nepali Rs.13.91 billion), it however has a staggering deficit of Nepali Rs.41.11 billion.

Also, within a month of assuming the reins of the country, the Prachanda government Saturday lost its first minister with the cabinet accepting the resignation of maverick land reforms and management minister Matrika Prasad Yadav.

Yadav, an ethnic leader from the Terai plains, had resigned twice during the earlier government led by prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala.

This time, he turned the sights on his own Maoist party, quitting his post Friday after the top leaders of his party asked him to engage in self-criticism for having triggered a controversy.

The Maoist leader had personally led a team in Siraha district in southern Nepal, confiscating a plot of land belonging to a local and “distributing” it among squatters.

The act created a furore with other parties raising the issue in the interim parliament and demanding tough action against the minister.

Yadav’s resignation could deepen the rift already apparent in the Maoist party in which hardliners have already begun criticising Prachanda for deviating from the Maoist principles.

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