Row with army forces Nepalese prime minister to cancel China visit

Pushpa Kamal DahalKathmandu- Nepalese Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has cancelled his official visit to China scheduled for early May due to a developing political crisis in the country, officials said Saturday. "The visit was cancelled to allow the prime minister to engage in political debates in Nepal to resolve the current dispute," said Om Sharma, the prime minister's press advisor.

The cancellation followed growing splits between the ruling coalition partners over the Maoist-led government's attempts to remove the country's army chief.

The crisis is now threatening to bring down the government and disrupt the two-and-a-half-year old peace process.

During his Beijing trip, Dahal had been expected to sign agreements on Chinese assistance to Nepal, and a proposed new friendship treaty between the two countries was also on the agenda.

The opposition Nepali Congress party has spearheaded resistance to the government's attempt to remove the army chief, Rukmangat Katuwal, claiming the Maoist former rebels were trying to demoralise the military in order to seize complete state power.

Relations between Nepal's Maoist-led government and the army have been deteriorating since the beginning of the year.

Last month the defence ministry forced eight brigadier generals to retire early - ignoring the army's own recommendation that their terms be extended by another three years.

The generals challenged the government decision in court and won reinstatement.

The ministry also tried to stop the recruitment of around 3,000 new soldiers, saying it violated the peace agreement.

However, the recruitment went ahead after the Supreme Court ruled it was legal. (dpa)