Nepal Maoist rebels reluctant to lay down arms
The peace process, aimed at ending a 10-year insurgency, had been stalled for four months on the issue of weapons management.india Updated: Oct 10, 2006 12:20 IST
Differences between Nepal's political leaders and communist rebels could be easily resolved if the rebels lay down their arms, lawmakers said on Tuesday, but the Maoists remained sceptical as peace talks continued.
The negotiations, involving Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, leaders of the ruling seven-party alliance and rebel chief Prachanda, resumed on Sunday in the capital Kathmandu.
The peace process, aimed at ending a 10-year insurgency, had been stalled for four months on the issue of weapons management.
In June, the political parties and rebels agreed that the communists should be allowed to join an interim government in return for surrendering their weapons, but no progress has been made on either side.
"If the two sides are able to make headway on the issue of the rebels' weapons, most of the political differences can easily be resolved," said Ramesh Lekhak, labour minister and a member of the government peace talks team.
"We want the Maoists to transform themselves in to a democratic and legitimate force by giving up their arms-based politics.
We can reach an understanding on every issue if they assure us that weapons are not used for political purposes," said Mahesh Acharya from the Nepali Congress, the Himalayan nation's largest party. But the rebels expressed reservations.
"We suspect the government is backing away from its previous flexibility and appear more rigid on the issue of arms management. They are trying to force us to surrender arms in the pretext of separating them from our fighters, which is unacceptable to us," said Dev Gurung, a member of the rebel team.
More than 13,000 people have died in the communist insurgency since it began in 1996.
The government and rebels declared a ceasefire and began peace talks in April. At their last meeting on June 15 it was agreed that an interim constitution would be put in place within a month, and that the rebels would join the interim government. Neither pledge has been followed through.
Instead, the two sides have exchanged accusations of cease-fire violations, and the rebels have threatened to launch anti-government protests.