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UN begins review of Nepal arms agreement

The 10-page detailed agreement, hammered out with the UN assistance was signed between the Govt and Maoists recently.

india Updated: Nov 29, 2006 13:58 IST

Minutes after the Nepal government and Maoist rebels inked a pact to end a decade-old conflict, the UN began studying the document prior to putting its signature to it and making the deal tripartite.

"(The agreement) sends a very positive signal about the momentum of the peace process in Nepal," said Ian Martin, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's personal representative for the Nepal peace process.

"I am very pleased to see that the negotiations between the government and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), with the assistance of my team, have reached an agreement on the key details required for the UN to provide effective monitoring of arms and armies."

While the UN began reviewing the pact that took Nepal's coalition government and the communist rebels five days of hectic parleys, Annan is expected to brief the UN Security Council on the Nepal developments on Wednesday.

Nepal's Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, known by his nom de guerre Prachanda, have already written to Annan, asking him to deploy UN officials to monitor the arms and armies of the government as well as the rebels in the Himalayan nation.

Nepal took a concrete step towards peace on Tuesday when the two warring sides finally signed an armed accord that pledges to put away guns, stop recruiting children and allow people to move across the country unhindered.

The 10-page detailed treaty, hammered out with UN assistance after a series of disagreements between the government and the rebels, was signed in capital city Kathmandu on Tuesday evening by home minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula, who is also the coordinator of the government dialogues team, as well as Krishna Bahadur Mahara, former parliamentarian and Maoist spokesman.

With Martin being away in New York, a copy of the draft was handed over to Jan Eric Wilhemson, UN military advisor, for the world body's review.

The rebels have agreed to confine the soldiers of their People's Liberation Army (PLA) to seven cantonments with each cantonment having three more satellite camps about two hours' drive away from the main camp.

The rebels will keep most of their arms locked up in containers inside the camps keeping only a limited cache with their patrols entrusted with protecting the camps.

The soldiers will be verified by the UN and those recruited after the fall of King Gyanendra's royal regime in April will not be eligible to stay in the cantonments.

Soldiers whose ages are 16 or less will be honourably discharged. Soldiers of the Nepal Army (NA) will also be confined to their barracks.

An elaborate system of precautions will be taken to ensure the arms of both the PLA and the NA are not put to use.

Besides a fence surrounding the area, the weapons storage depots will have storage containers painted white and furnished with shelves for safe weapons storage and easy control, and with a complete inventory.

Each container will have a single lock provided by the UN. The key will be held by the designated main cantonment site commander.

A 24-hour surveillance camera will cover the storage site and will be monitored from the UN office in the cantonment site.

Floodlights will be switched on automatically during hours of darkness.

The UN will provide an inspection registration device mounted on each container door indicating when the storage container has been opened.

An alarm system will be connected to sirens in both the UN office and the camp commander's office.

The system will be activated if the container door is opened without a "safe button" having been switched off in connection with regular inspections.

UN monitors will carry out the inspections of the arms storage area and containers in the presence of a Maoist army representative in the cantonments and with an army official as onlooker while in army barracks.

While the present government will foot the bill for housing and feeding the rebel soldiers, when a new interim government is formed, the Council of Ministers will form a special committee to supervise, integrate and rehabilitate the combatants.

The government has been able to wrest concessions for the Nepal Army, who despite the barracking will be allowed to conduct peacetime activities.

These range from providing protection to VIPs to providing border security, relief work during disasters, participating in UN peacekeeping operations, guarding vital installations and being allowed to go on home leave without fearing attacks by the rebels.

The rebel camps and army barracks will be monitored by a Joint Monitoring Coordination Committee.

The nine-member panel chaired by the UN will comprise representatives from the UN, PLA and Nepal Army.

The committee will keep an eye on the camps and barracks through Joint Monitoring Teams formed of one international monitor as the team leader and one monitor from Nepal Army and one monitor from the PLA.

However, even as the accord was signed, there were reports in the local media about the rebels continuing atrocities.

The student wing of the rebels was reported to have abducted three students belonging to a rival left group, blindfolded them and subjected them to torture.

Germany, one of the first governments to hail the arms accord, was also the first to point out that the rebels were continuing to flout peace norms.

As German officials began negotiating an economic agreement with Nepal, the German ambassador to the kingdom, Franz Ring, said, "There is no place for forced recruitment, in particular, of child soldiers, for forced recruitment of demonstrators, abductions, extortion and political violence.

"Such human rights abuses have been and are unacceptable and have to be condemned in the strongest terms."

First Published: Nov 29, 2006 13:58 IST