Nepal's government and communist rebel leaders resumed peace talks on Tuesday after clearing their biggest hurdle with an agreement to lock up the rebels' weapons -- a major step in ending a decade-old insurgency, officials said.
Details of the agreement on how the weapons would be placed under United Nations supervision were finalised at a meeting on Monday between Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, leaders of the seven-party ruling coalition and Maoist rebel leader Prachanda.
The leaders resumed discussions in small groups at the prime minister's official residence on Tuesday morning in bid to settle unresolved issues ahead of a formal meeting later in the day, said Mahesh Acharya of Koirala's Nepali Congress.
Acharya said the talks were focused on the future of the monarchy, and whether the country should hold a referendum or a proposed special elected assembly to decide if Nepal should continue to have a king.
He said the leaders were also trying to decide on the formation of an interim legislature and interim government that would include the rebels.
The issue of weapons held by the guerrillas has been the biggest hurdle in the peace process to end the insurgency, which has claimed more than 13,000 lives since it began in 1996.
Rebel leader Prachanda, whose real name is Pushpa Kamal Dahal, said Sunday the two sides had made significant progress in peace talks, and that they agreed to place their weapons under United Nations supervision.
Prachanda said both sides agreed in principle that weapons held by the rebels and government soldiers would be locked up separately and held by UN officials.
The government has insisted the guerrillas give up their weapons before joining an interim government, but the guerrillas had refused.
The rebels declared a cease-fire in April and began peace talks with the government. The last peace talks held in October failed to result in an agreement after months of delay because of differences between the two sides.