KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) – Newly returned Nepalese legislators demanded Saturday that King Gyanendra be stripped of control over the 90,000-strong army, fearing he could use it to regain power after his recent concession to weeks of pro-democracy protests.

Nepal’s constitution gives the monarch supreme command of the army, and Gyanendra’s seizure of power in February 2005 included sending soldiers to arrest opposition politicians, censor the media and guard his palace.

Legislators said Saturday the king must lose control over the army when the constitution is rewritten by a special assembly. Elections for the assembly were proposed Friday by lawmakers meeting for the first time in four years.

“It is the prime minister who should be the supreme commander of the army and not the king. The existing laws should be amended immediately, and that is what we are going to do,” Shivraj Basnet, a lawmaker from Nepali Congress, the country’s largest party, said Saturday.

Army officials could not be immediately reached for comment, but they have said previously they would do whatever the government ordered. The king did not respond to the lawmakers.

While the recent weeks of protests dramatically weakened the king’s power, he still has support among a small coterie of politicians, judges and civil servants.

Meanwhile, communist rebels abducted 11 unarmed soldiers heading home for vacation, despite the Maoist insurgents’ declaration of a three-month cease-fire, an army official said Saturday.

The abductions came just hours after the rebels declared the cease-fire Thursday, and it was possible the guerrillas, who have a limited communications network, did not know of the announcement when they abducted the soldiers.

The rebels on Saturday freed eight of the 11 soldiers, handing them to representatives of the rights group INSEC-Nepal in the village of Jitpur, about 310 miles east of Katmandu, according to the army and the group. The condition and whereabouts of the three remaining soldiers were unknown late Saturday.

The rebels’ elusive leader, Prachanda, had said his fighters would not attack government targets for three months to allow Parliament time to ready Nepal for elections for the constitutional assembly.

The rebels supported the nearly three-week campaign of demonstrations organized by an alliance of seven political parties against the royal government.

There was no immediate indication the abductions would affect the cease-fire or spark a renewal of the political turmoil that led the king to reconvene Parliament on Monday.

The soldiers were captured Thursday in the remote village of Ramdittha, about 310 miles east of the capital, Katmandu, said Royal Nepalese Army spokesman Indresh Dahal.

Meanwhile, at least eight soldiers were killed and nine were wounded in an accidental explosion in an army barracks in the western town of Tamghas. Defense ministry spokesman Indiresh Dahal had no further details Saturday.

Along with pushing for a rewritten constitution, lawmakers meeting Friday proposed a long-term truce with the Maoist rebels, who have battled for a decade to create a communist state.

The speaker of Parliament made the proposals on behalf of Girija Prasad Koirala, the newly named 84-year-old prime minister. Koirala’s health was improving Saturday and he was meeting with visiting politicians, said his aide, Balkrishna Dahal.

It was unclear when he would be sworn into office.

The proposals were to be discussed in Parliament Sunday.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, another demonstrator injured in the anti-monarchy protests died, bringing the total number of those killed by security forces to 16.

The 32-year-old man died in a New Delhi hospital, where he had been taken after being shot April 20 in Katmandu’s Kalanki neighborhood, said a social worker with the Nepali Liaison Committee, an organization that helps Nepalis in New Delhi.

He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

AP-ES-04-29-06 1216EDT

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.