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Nepal's Maoists say king should not be humiliated

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal’s unpopular king should be allowed to leave his palace with dignity and live as a common citizen, Maoist party chiefs said after a strong showing in elections expected to lead to the abolition of the monarchy.

Nepal's King Gyanendra gestures during a reception held to mark the third day of his birthday celebrations in Kathmandu in this July 8, 2007 file photo. Gyanendra should be allowed to leave his palace with dignity and live as a common citizen, Maoist party chiefs said. REUTERS/Gopal Chitrakar/Files

Maoist chief Prachanda said he would be happy to have talks with King Gyanendra.

“The king should not be ousted from the throne in a humiliating manner,” Prachanda was quoted as saying in Saturday’s Kathmandu Post. He made similar remarks on state television.

“Even after he leaves the throne he should be allowed to continue with his business affairs or other activities, including engagement in politics in future if he so desires,” said Prachanda, a nom de guerre meaning “terrible”.

“I am even ready to meet him.”

Prachanda led Maoist guerrillas in a decade-long civil war against the monarchy in which more than 13,000 people were killed.

The Maoists look set to become the biggest party in the country’s new assembly after landmark April 10 elections held under a peace deal struck by the former guerrillas and mainstream political parties in 2006. The Maoists’ success has surprised many political analysts and diplomats.

Baburam Bhattarai, seen as the most powerful person in the Maoist group after Prachanda, said the former guerrillas had set no deadline for the king to leave.

“This is the mandate of the people. Let the king accept it gracefully and go,” Bhattarai told Reuters.

King Gyanendra was formerly a businessman with interests ranging from tea and tobacco to casinos. He became king in 2001 after the massacre of his elder brother and eight other members of the royal family by the crown prince, who then shot himself.

Votes cast in the April 10 elections are still being counted. The latest results showed the Maoists had won 117 of the 222 seats declared so far.

They will become part of a 601-member special assembly that is charged with preparing a new constitution and formally declaring Nepal a republic.

Prachanda said the first meeting of the special assembly, expected in May, would abolish the monarchy in keeping with an agreement made by the Maoists and mainstream political parties in December.

“If we fail, Nepal will plunge into another crisis,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.