updated 4/30/2006 1:12:42 PM ET 2006-04-30T17:12:42
BREAKING NEWS

Nepal’s lawmakers called Sunday for elections to an assembly to rewrite the constitution and for a cease-fire with Maoist insurgents.

Parliament also called for negotiations with the Maoists, who played a key role in protests that forced Nepal’s king to give up power last week. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, who was sworn in earlier in the day, urged the rebels to join the political mainstream.

Koirala’s government must now name dates for the election, part of his effort to keep his political alliance together and steer the troubled Himalayan country toward peace and democracy.

Koirala, a veteran Nepali politician, was sworn in as prime minister earlier on Sunday, days after King Gyanendra bowed to pro-democracy protesters and returned power to political parties.

The king, humbled by the protests and facing possible moves to end the monarchy, administered the oath of office to his 84-year-old arch foe at the Narayanhity royal palace in the capital, Katmandu.

No oath for privy council
But Koirala, the head of the Nepali Congress party, did not take a separate oath to establish himself as a member of the Raj Parishad, a privy council that advises the king.

It was the first time a prime minister had declined to take an oath to the council since multi-party democracy was established in 1990, and it marked the latest of several recent moves by political parties to distance themselves from the monarch.

Frail and suffering from bronchitis, Koirala waved at reporters outside the iron gate of the palace after becoming Nepal’s 15th prime minister in 16 years. He did not speak.

Koirala automatically becomes a member of the council under Nepal’s constitution, but political parties have called for it to be abolished.

Skeptics over king's role
Koirala, who has been prime minister four times before, was accompanied by his doctor to the ceremony, officials said.

Last week, the king appointed Koirala as prime minister on the recommendation of the seven political parties that launched weeks of street protests in which at least 15 people were killed and thousands wounded.

The king also reinstated parliament disbanded in 2002.

At least 117 cases of journalists being attacked and wounded -- including some by gunfire -- by security forces while covering pro-democracy demonstrations were also recorded, said Paris-based media watchdog, Reporters Without Borders.

No political obituary for king yet
Critics said the unpopular king may be down now but not yet out. “Given his personality, as long as he is around, even if he is a symbolic monarch, he will be up to some mischief,” said Kunda Dixit, editor of the widely read weekly, Nepali Times.

Dixit said the king had money and controlled the army, a fact that may tempt him to meddle in the unsettled politics.

“Therefore, one of the first things parliament should do is to clip the king’s wings,” he said.

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