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Central & South Asia
Nepal Maoists sack army chief
Analysts fear dispute with the army could endanger peace deal.
Last Modified: 03 May 2009 13:40 GMT
Katawal's dismissal has yet to be approved
by Nepal's president [EPA]

Nepal's ruling Maoist party has sacked the country's army chief in a move that analysts warn could trigger a showdown between the prime minister and the military.

Rookmangud Katawal was dismissed from his post "with immediate effect as his clarification for defying the government orders was not satisfactory," Krishna Bahadur Mahara, Nepal's information minister, said on Sunday.

announced the move on Sunday, but it has yet to be endorsed by the president.

Katawal was accused of disobeying orders to halt army recruitment and was questioned over the firing of eight senior army generals. His sacking has yet to be endorsed by the president.

"This will all depend on what he [the president] will decide," Ajaya Bhadra Khanal, the editor of the Himalayan Times newspaper, told Al Jazeera.

"[We don't know] Whether he will endorse the recommendation of the cabinet or he will offer them another suggestion, or way out."

'People's war'

The army and the Maoists have been locked in a dispute over Maoist demands that their former fighters, currently confined to UN-supervised camps, be fully integrated into the regular army.

But the army is refusing to take in Maoist fighters who it views as being politically indoctrinated.

Concerns have grown over what the dispute will mean for the peace deal, which brought the Maoists into the political mainstream and ended their decade-long "people's war".

By sacking the army chief, the Maoists ignored objections from opposition parties and some allies in the ruling coalition and some analysts have suggested that the Communist party (UML), a key Maoist ally, could quit the government over the move.

UML members and some other small allies stormed out of Sunday's cabinet meeting, government officials said.

Destabilisation fears

"This has completely destabilised the coalition because the UML and the Maoists have painted themselves into a corner," said Kunda Dixit, editor of the Nepali Times weekly.

"They have no face-saving way out."

The Maoists won landmark elections last year and forced the abdication of the king.

Since then they have been pushing to finalise the peace process by having their former fighters incorporated into the national army.

But the army, a bastion of Nepal's former ruling elite, accuses the Maoists of not fulfilling their commitments to return property grabbed during the civil war and disband its youth wing, the Young Communist League.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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