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Nepal Maoists declare ceasefire

Easing tensions in the impoverished kingdom, the rebels again underlined their demand for a new Constitution.

india Updated: Apr 27, 2006 14:24 IST

Nepal's Maoist rebels declared a three-month unilateral ceasefire from Thursday, easing tensions in the impoverished kingdom, but again underlined their demand for a new Constitution.

"Our People's Liberation Army will not carry out any offensive military action during this period and will remain defensive," rebel chief Prachanda said in a statement.

"Our party believes that this declaration will highly respect the aspiration for the constituent assembly, a democratic republic and peace that is seen on the street."

The Maoists have been fighting to overthrow Nepal's monarchy since 1996 and at least 13,000 people have been killed.

They have a loose alliance with mainstream political parties which are to form a new government after King Gyanendra gave in earlier this week to almost 20 days of crippling street protests and reconvened the dissolved parliament.

A senior political leader welcomed the Maoist announcement, and said the incoming government would likely join the truce.

"They (Maoists) have taken the initiative to take the credit of showing themselves as initiators of peace," said Madhav Kumar Nepal, general secretary of the Communist Party of Nepal (UML), the second largest in the main seven-party alliance.

He said if the intentions of the Maoists were honourable, it was a good thing and the government would reciprocate.

He expected the government to announce a ceasefire of its own, release Maoist prisoners, withdraw international arrest warrants for its top leaders and invite them for talks.

The Maoists had called the king's deal with the political parties a "sham," unhappy that his address to the nation to dissolve parliament made no explicit mention of their demand for a constituent assembly.

Parliament meets on Friday

The rebels announced a blockade of Kathmandu and other towns but later lifted it after the incoming prime minister said elections would be held for the constituent assembly, which would review the role of the monarchy and write a new constitution.

Parliament is to hold its first session on Friday.

"We want to make it clear that if the first meeting of the parliament does not take a positive decision on the declaration of an unconditional constituent assembly, we will be compelled to re-impose the blockade," Prachanda said in an earlier statement.

On Thursday, the rebels said there were "efforts to undervalue the great ideals shown on the street" as a movement only for the reinstatement of parliament by political parties.

"Our party will not lag behind to fight any conspiracy to foil the aspirations of the people," Prachanda said.

Girija Prasad Koirala, 84, is set to become Nepal's next prime minister after the king handed over power to the alliance.

The veteran politician, four times prime minister and leader of the biggest party, the Nepali Congress, had earlier appealed to the powerful Maoists to end their blockade.

Analysts said there were plenty of pitfalls ahead. The Maoist demand for an unconditional constituent assembly is generally interpreted to mean it should have the power to strip the king of his title and establish a republic.

But an assembly on those terms is not something the king would be happy with, and could use the Supreme Court, dominated by royal appointees, to block it.

It was also not clear if the Maoists would agree to lay down their weapons before elections to the special assembly, something parliament is expected to demand.

First Published: Apr 27, 2006 09:31 IST

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