Nepal's political parties, rebels in new agreement
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Nepal's political parties, rebels in new agreement

Communist rebels and Nepal's major political parties have reached a new agreement to oppose King Gyanendra's absolute rule.

india Updated: Mar 19, 2006 16:10 IST

Communist rebels and Nepal's major political parties announced onSunday that they have reached a new agreement to oppose King Gyanendra's absolute rule over the Himalayan country.

The Maoist rebels an alliance of the seven largest parties issued separate statements saying they will push ahead with protests to restore democracy in Nepal.

The country's King Gyanendra has drawn fierce, widespread opposition after dissolving the government and seizing total control of the country in February last year, saying it was necessary to halt corruption and quell the communist insurgency. The rebels have fought for a decade to replace Nepal's constitutional monarchy with a communist government. The conflict has claimed nearly 13,000 lives.

The communists' elusive leader, known as Prachanda, said the two sides had agreed to keep dialogue open.

Prachanda, whose real name is Pushpa Kamal Dahal, said the rebels believe an interim government should be formed to hold elections to a special assembly that would decide on a new constitution. The parties, however, want to reinstate the dissolved parliament, then conduct a special assembly election.

No other details of the agreement between the parties and rebels were immediately given. The two sides had been negotiating for four days in New Delhi, the capital of neighboring India, but the statement was issued in Nepal.

"The new agreement shows that both sides are committed to their earlier understanding and to implement what we had agreed," said Arjun Narsingh of the Nepali Congress, the largest party. The alliance has been urging the rebels to halt a highway blockade that has crippled life in Nepal, and to support the parties' peaceful movement to restore democracy.

The guerrillas have call for a nationwide, indefinite general strike starting April 3.

Sunday's statement, signed by the seven parties' leaders, asked the rebels to withdraw their strike call and instead support an April 6-9 strike and an alliance-organized rally in the capital, Katmandu.

The rebels have said nothing about withdrawing the blockade or strike.

Their blockade halted trucks and other vehicles on major routes for a sixth day Sunday. Fear of rebel attacks has kept thousands of drivers off the roads, interrupting fuel deliveries and causing food prices to soar in mountainous areas.

Nepal has no railroads. Trucks haul virtually all fuel, food and other supplies.

In the resort town of Pokhara, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) west of the Katmandu, car drivers were limited to buying 5 liters (1.32 gallons) of gasoline, or 1 liter (0.26 gallon) for motorcycles.

Service station owners said they had only a few days' fuel supply left.

State-owned fuel importing and distribution monopoly Nepal Oil Corp. said it has stocks in a depot about 16 kilometers (10 miles) from Pokhara, but it cannot find drivers willing to drive the fuel to the service stations, said company spokesman Sushil Bhattarai. Fuel was still available in Katmandu, which has storage facilities. No shortages were reported in other towns. Rebel violence has risen since the guerrillas ended a unilateral cease-fire in January and resumed attacks on government positions and troops.

First Published: Mar 19, 2006 16:10 IST