New constitution in Nepal likely by November 2007

Nepal is likely to have a new constitution by November 2007 to meet a key demand of communist rebels who joined political parties in a campaign that forced King Gyanendra to relinquish power, the new deputy prime minister said.

But bringing a permanent end to Nepal's communist insurgency could take longer unless the rebel chief personally joins peace talks with the government rather than sending emissaries, Deputy Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli said Thursday.

Oli, in an interview with The Associated Press, offered the first timeline for plans to rewrite the constitution, saying "a constituent assembly within 12 months, and within 18 months a constitution will be formulated. This is my calculation."

Oli said the king's role in government would be decided by the assembly, which will be chosen by the people.

But he added: "Of course ... each and every institution should prove itself (and) its relevance. Each and every institution should win over the hearts and minds of the people. The people's verdict should be accepted."

Writing a new constitution, which could limit the king's role or eliminate the monarchy altogether, is also a key demand of the seven-party alliance. But the rebels want a new interim constitution immediately.

The United Nations has offered help in planning and conducting elections to the constituent assembly, and in writing the constitution, the U.N. chief in Nepal said.

"If Nepal wishes and asks, we are willing to respond ... That is something we do, and we have done it" in several other countries, Matthew Kahane told the AP late Thursday, reports the AP.

I.L.