The party-Maoist pact which was expected to be signed on Friday has hit a roadblock after both sides back down at the last moment.
After a day of hectic back-and-forth with negotiators in New Delhi, the meeting of the seven party alliance in Kathmandu was put off for two days pending further talks with the rebels. The door has been left open but it looks like the deal is off for now.
In the end, the gulf between the parties and the Maoists was just too wide. The parties felt the Maoists were asking for too much by pressing for a common anti-king front and a joint statement. The Maoists for their part felt the parties were getting cold feet and were not responding to what they considered major concessions of withdrawing the blockade and strike call.
The parties were under tremendous pressure from India and the US not to sign a joint communiqu?. In addition, the speech by Chinese State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan in Kathmandu on Friday in which Beijing took the unprecedented step of calling for "unity between constitutional forces" probably made the parties hesitate. The US, India and China now have a common public stand that the king and the parties should patch up their differences to restore democracy ands stability in Nepal.
Tang also had a separate meeting the NC's Girija Koirala on Friday. Meanwhile Home Minister Kamal Thapa made a strong statement warning parties not to join hands with the Maoists otherwise they would be treated like criminals.
Sources say there were rifts within the seven parties as well with the UML willing to give in more than the two NCs.