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'US wary of Nepal Maoists despite truce'

Written by: Staff

Washington, May 18 : The United States remains skeptical about the commitment of Maoist rebels in Nepal to a cease-fire after a decade of brutal insurgency, the top US diplomat for South Asia told Congress.

Richard Boucher, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian Affairs, said yesterday the Maoists must renounce violence and lay down their weapons and said Washington was willing to help Nepal's security forces if the government requested it.

''Until the Maoists take steps to change their character, we will not be convinced that they have abandoned their stated goal of establishing a one-party, authoritarian state,'' Boucher told a hearing of the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific.

After mass demonstrations last month against the absolute rule he imposed in February 2005, Nepal's King Gyanendra, who imposed absolute rule in February last year, responded to mass demonstrations last month by handing power back to political parties.

The Kathmandu government and the Maoist rebels have agreed to a cease-fire and to hold talks to end the revolt in which more than 13,000 people have been killed.

Boucher said the cease-fire was holding but added that ''there are multiple reports of the Maoists' continued campaign of violence, extortion (and) shakedowns.'' He said the rebel group must ''enter the political process without having a gun stashed in their back pocket.'' 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 the monarchy.

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 any constitution agreed to by the special assembly.


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