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United Nations ready to feed Maoist soldiers

Concerned about reports of Maoists falling ill in their makeshift camps due to poor living conditions, the UN has offered help.

india Updated: Dec 18, 2006 16:46 IST

Concerned about reports of Maoist soldiers falling ill in their makeshift camps due to poor living conditions, the UN has offered to feed the rebels and provide other assistance.

Ian Martin, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's personal representative for Nepal's peace process, said the World Food Programme had agreed in principle to provide food to cantonments where the Maoists have agreed to confine their rebel soldiers.

"The establishment and management of the cantonment sites is not a responsibility that UN has ever been asked to undertake," Martin said.

"However, relevant UN agencies remain ready to respond to government requests for assistance."

The UN Development Programme in Nepal will oversee the additional help the world body can provide to the seven cantonments and 21 satellite camps where nearly 35,000 Maoists rebels are expected to be housed and lay down their arms under UN supervision.

Martin added that the Maoists would also have to be consulted before finalising any UN help since the guerrillas would remain in charge of their own camps.

The UN is ready to shoulder the additional responsibility after already having agreed to provide monitors who will keep the state and the rebel armies and their weapons under supervision.

It will also provide advisors and observers for a special assembly election to be held next year when voters will decide if they want to retain the 238-year monarchy or trade it in for a republic.

A UN technical mission that had arrived in Nepal earlier this month to assess the personnel and budget it would need for the Nepal mission completed its work on Monday.

It will present its report to the UN chief, who will table it before the UN Security Council probably in January.

Spurred by allegations in Nepal that the UN was moving at a snail's pace, the world body on Monday also sent an arms expert to help determine a process to register the weapons and soldiers.

On Sunday, the Joint Monitoring Coordination Committee, comprising officials from the Nepal Army, the UN and military leaders of the guerrilla "People's Liberation Army" held a meeting to discuss the monitoring process.

The tasks include visiting the sites where the weapons will be stored and monitors employed to keep watch.

After its earlier reluctance to employ veterans from the British and Indian armies to assist in the monitoring, the UN has begun to warm up to the idea.

It has conceded that since it would not have sufficient manpower immediately to keep a 24-hour vigil at all army and PLA camps, former Gurkha soldiers could be recruited to form a transitory task force until they can be phased out with the arrival of a fuller UN team.

Martin also said that the first group of UN monitors would arrive before the end of the year and the rest by mid-January.

After the Security Council approves of the technical team's report, more personnel are likely to be deployed.

Till then, the council has approved of 35 arms monitors and 25 electoral advisors.