Nepal government, rebels to sign ceasefire accord

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KATHMANDU, Nov 12 (Reuters) Nepal's multi-party government and Maoist rebels will sign a permanent ceasefire deal as part of a comprehensive peace accord on Thursday, the chief of the state's peace committee said today.

Peace hopes have grown in the Himalayan nation since the two sides signed a temporary truce in April after King Gyanendra relinquished power following mass street protests.

The government and rebels also signed a power-sharing pact last week in which the Maoists will place their weapons under UN supervision and join an interim administration by December 1.

Both sides are under intense public pressure to turn the present lull in violence into lasting peace, ending a decade-long insurgency to topple the monarchy. The conflict has killed more than 13,000 people.

''The ceasefire agreement will be part of a comprehensive national peace accord due to be signed by Prime Minister (Girija Prasad Koirala) and (Maoist chief) Prachanda on Thursday,'' Ram Chandra Poudel, coordinator of the state's peace committee, which liaises and handles the peace process, told Reuters.

''It will turn the present situation of temporary truce into a permanent ceasefire,'' he said.

He said the accord would also include a human rights agreement, and spell out modalities and details of arms monitoring.

Yesterday, the United Nations urged the government and Maoists to start focusing on protecting human rights following last week's power-sharing agreement.

Under that pact, the Maoists agreed to confine the 35,000-strong rebel army to 28 camps and place their weapons under the UN supervision.

In return, they will get 73 seats in the planned 330-member interim parliament and be included in an interim administration by December 1.

The army will also be kept in barracks and an equal number of their arms stored.

Officials said sites for camps to house the rebels were being identified jointly by the United Nations, the government and the rebels.

Poudel said extortion, kidnapping and intimidation that were ignored by authorities so far would not be spared.

Political parties and human rights groups have accused the Maoists of extorting money and kidnapping people, despite the truce.

The rebels say they are only collecting voluntary donations.


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