Nepal leader to form new coalition government

In a last-ditch effort to finish years of work on Nepal's new constitution, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai will form a new coalition government including members of the main opposition parties, officials said Thursday.

Deputy Prime Minister Narayankaji Shrestha announced that an agreement had been reached among the top political parties and that all ministers in Bhattarai's Cabinet had resigned to clear the way for a new government.

The new Cabinet will include representatives of all key parties in the country's Constituent Assembly, Shrestha said.

The agreement was reached despite reports of disagreements during a long day of negotiations Thursday. No date for the formation of the new government was announced.

The agreement is expected to help ease political confusion in the Himalayan nation, where the assembly elected in 2008 has until May 27 to finalize a new constitution. The assembly, elected to a two-year tenure, has been repeatedly extended, and the Supreme Court has ruled that no more extensions are possible.

"It is necessary to form the national consensus government to finish the new constitution, complete the peace process and successfully pass the transitional phase. That is why we decided to get together in the new government," said Ishwar Pokhrel of the Communist Party of Nepal United Marxist Leninist, the third-largest party.

Bhattarai, deputy leader of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), had formed the government last year with the support of smaller parties in the assembly.

It is still unclear whether the new coalition government will be able to finalize the constitution by the deadline. The main sticking points include the number of federal states that Nepal would have and who would be the executive head of the country.

The debate has at times become violent. In the southern town of Janakpur, a bomb killed four people Monday at a rally where protesters were demanding a separate state.

A new constitution is a key part of the peace process that began in 2006 after Maoist rebels gave up their armed revolt and joined mainstream politics.