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Prince named as future Nepal ruler

Prince Paras
Prince Paras become heir depite a troubled history  

KATHMANDU, Nepal -- A prince who was once an embarrassment has been named heir to the royal throne in the Himalayan kingdom of Nepal.

King Gyanendra's formal appointment of Prince Paras, his only son, underlined the scale of change since the bloody rampage by his cousin, the then Crown Prince Dipendra.

"His Majesty the King has named his son Prince Paras, as the Crown Prince," state-run Nepal Television said, without giving any details.

The king also named Paras' wife Himani as Crown Princess.

Paras who has a daughter but no sons, is the last in line in the supposedly eternal Shah dynasty which has ruled for centuries in the Himalayan kingdom, where succession passes through the male heirs.

Gyanendra became king of Nepal in June after Dipendra shot and killed his own parents and seven other members of the royal family before killing himself.

The massacre plunged the impoverished country into a political crisis.

Nepal's Royal Killings 

Initially, horrified Nepalis found it hard to believe the official version of the macabre killings and took to the streets in anger.

Reuters news agency reports that little is known about Paras, 29, beyond a reputation as a playboy whose behavior and driving were the butt of public criticism.

At a glance: Nepal

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Paras was, however, praised by a member of the royal family who said he tried to intervene and stop Dipendra during the shooting spree in the palace.

At one stage, Dipendra turned his gun on Paras, behind whom some women were hiding. "Had it not been because of Prince Paras, probably there would not have been so many survivors that day," Captain Rajiv Shahi, a witness to the killings, told the world's press days after the tragedy.

Shahi married into the royal family.

C.K. Lal, a Kathmandu-based columnist, said King Gyanendra needs a crown prince to attend official ceremonies and royal religious events.

"It is an oddity to have an apparent heir to the crown who was not a heir apparent. So the king had a problem . . . he had to announce the crown prince," Lal told Indian TV channel Star News.

Lal said Nepalis may have forgotten about Paras' former reputation for a wild lifestyle because he had started to project a more positive public image.

"I think his past is largely forgotten if not completely forgiven," Lal said. "People have seen that he has been behaving, at least in public functions, in a very exemplary way."

Paras was one of 580 people who were conferred state honors earlier this month for special contributions during and after the tenure of slain King Birendra.


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