Friday, July 28, 2006

Nepal Rebels Extend Ceasefile by Three Months

Friday July 28, 05:51 PM

By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU (Reuters) -- Nepal's Maoist rebels extended their ceasefire by three months on Friday in a bid to support peace talks aimed at ending their decade-old insurgency that has killed thousands.

The extension came hours before the truce -- declared after King Gyanendra ended his absolute rule in April -- was due to expire.
"Expressing the commitment and responsibility (for peace) our party has extended the ceasefire for another three months," Maoist chief Prachanda said in a statement.
He said an eight-point understanding between the rebels and the government last month was key to establishing lasting peace and ensuring progress in the impoverished country.

"But the government and seven political parties are trying to back out from it under different pretexts," he said.

"We strongly urge the government to show eagerness to advance the peace talks . . . otherwise we will be forced to declare another strong peaceful movement," Prachanda said.

Some analysts said the Maoists should have declared an indefinite ceasefire and not just for three months.

"This shows that they are still some distance from joining the mainstream," said Rajendra Dahal, editor of Himal magazine.

The rebels have been upset in recent weeks over what they say is a delay by the multi-party interim government of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala to push the pace of peace talks and accused his coalition of trying to preserve status quo.

The rebels and the government have also differed over a government plan to seek the help of the United Nations to disarm the Maoist army in the run up to elections to draft a new constitution and decide Nepal's future.


The ceasefire extension came as Maoist representatives began talks with a team of U.N. officials on how the world body could assist the peace process in the troubled Himalayan country.

"It was obviously very important for us to be able to meet the leaders of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists)," Staffan de Mistura, head of the visiting U.N. team, said after his talks with the rebels in Kathmandu.

"We asked a lot of questions, because, from our point of view, the important side of the mission is to learn and acquire as much information as possible about the points of view of everyone, also of their concerns," he said.

The seven member U.N. team arrived in Nepal on Thursday and met Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Khadga Prasad Oli. It will also meet army officials, diplomats as well as civil society groups during a week-long assessment tour.

De Mistura will submit his report to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who will then decide on the type and duration of U.N. engagement in Nepal's peace process.

The rebels are demanding an immediate dissolution of the reinstated parliament and the formation of an interim government that would include them.

They also say that they are ready to keep their fighters and weapons under U.N. supervision but will not surrender them.

The Maoists have been fighting since 1996 to topple the monarchy -- a conflict that has killed more than 13,000 people so far.