Nepal's Maoist rebel leader Prachanda has said his guerrillas and government troops could join forces to form a single army ahead of elections to a constituent assembly, media reported on Saturday.
"The Maoist army and the Nepali Army could be merged before constituent assembly elections after the formation of the interim government through an interim constitution," the rebel leader told local journalists Friday at Dhangadi in western Nepal, state-run daily The Rising Nepal reported.
Prachanda, whose real name is Pushpa Kamal Dahal, also said that the issue of arms management could be achieved through discussions between the Maoists and the new government.
While not prepared to disarm, Maoist rebels said on Thursday they are willing to put their army and their weapons under the supervision of the United Nations to create a stable environment for the constituent assembly polls.
The two sides have been observing a ceasefire for nearly two months and have agreed to hold elections for a body that will rewrite Nepal's constitution, probably removing the king permanently from political life.
King Gyanendra relinquished direct rule in April and handed back power to parliament after mass protests against him.
He had sacked the government and assumed direct control in February 2005, in a widely criticised move that he said was justified as political parties were corrupt and had failed to stem the decade-long bloody insurgency.
Last week, the rebels and new government reached a landmark power-sharing deal and agreed to dissolve the new government and establish an interim body that includes the rebels.
A committee formed to draft a temporary constitution that will pave the way for the rebels to join an interim government has started informal talks with the Maoists and civil society leaders, an official said.
"The official work will begin in the next two days. It will take at least 15 days more to draft the interim constitution after beginning our work formally," Laxman Prasad Aryal, coordinator of the committee, told the agency on Saturday.
"The interim constitution will be a temporary arrangement to hold a constituent assembly election," said Aryal, former justice of the Supreme Court.
At least 12,500 people have been killed in the impoverished Himalayan nation sandwiched between regional giants India and China since the rebels launched their insurgency in 1996.