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Nepal Maoist rebels declare three-month ceasefire

Written by: Staff

Kathmandu, Apr 27 : Nepal's Maoist rebels declared a three-month unilateral ceasefire from today and said the move reflected their desire for the formation of a special assembly to write 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 the monarchy since 1996 and at least 13,000 people have been killed. They earlier declared a truce in September but called it off in January when the royalist government did not reciprocate.

The rebels also have an indefinite ceasefire in force in the Kathmandu valley in what they have said was an effort to allow a seven-party political alliance carry out a protest campaign against the king.

King Gyanendra gave in on Monday after weeks of crippling protests and reinstated the country's dissolved parliament.

Yesterday, the rebels suspended a blockade of the capital Kathmandu after the country's incoming prime minister assured them elections would be held for the constituent assembly.

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Kathmandu after Gyanendra's climbdown, waving party flags and celebrating the rebirth of democracy.

The Maoists, however, called the king's deal with the political parties a ''sham,'' unhappy that Gyanendra's address made no mention of their demand for a constituent assembly.

Parliament session after four years

The rebels announced a blockade of Kathmandu and district capitals, but later lifted it until parliament meets for the first time in four years tomorrow, saying they wanted a new constitution and a review of the role of the monarchy.

''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 reimpose the blockade,'' Prachanda said in an earlier statement.

Today, 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 the 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, 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.

Mainstream political parties backed that demand when they entered a loose alliance with the Maoists last year and agreed on a roadmap to bring an end to the decade-long insurgency.


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