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Nepal Maoists want rebels freed before talks

Written by: Staff

Kathmandu, May 12: Two senior Maoist leaders, just released from jail, urged Nepal's new government today to free hundreds of their jailed comrades before starting peace talks to end a ecade- long revolt.

Nepal's government, which was formed last month after King Gyanendra backed down in the face of weeks of street protests, has agreed a ceasefire with the Maoist rebels, and both sides have agreed to hold talks.

But Matrika Yadav and Suresh Ale Magar, who were released yesterday, said Maoist prisoners should be first be freed and information provided about hundreds of others who they said had disappeared after being detained by security forces on suspicion of being a Maoist or a supporter.

''We will not sit for the talks until our comrades are freed,'' Magar told reporters, a day after being released following two years in jail.

Yadav said there were 1,400 Maoist leaders or workers in different jails, including 140 in neighbouring India and four in China. There was no immediate comment from the government.

The Maoists want to be included in an interim government which would supervise elections for a special assembly to draw a new constitution and decide the future of monarchy.

No dates for peace talks have yet been fixed, but Yadav said he hoped they would be ''conclusive'' this time.

''I hope our chairman Prachanda will take part in the talks with (Prime Minister) Girija Prasad Koirala,'' Yadav said. ''We will not have to take up arms again after the talks this time.'' Previous talks between the Maoists and the government failed in 2001 and 2003.

The nation's seven mainstream political parties and the rebels entered into a loose deal in November against the king, who had sacked the government and established direct rule in February 2005.

The Maoists have been fighting since 1996 to set up one-party communist rule in the Himalayan kingdom. But they now say they will accept whatever constitution is decided upon by the special assembly.


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