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Nepal rebels to close some 'people's courts'

Written by: Staff
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KATHMANDU, July 3 (Reuters) Nepal's Maoists will close some of their ''people's courts'', set up during their decade-old revolt, to boost the peace process with the new government, guerrilla chief Prachanda said today.

The courts were established in the areas under rebel control to settle cases in villages where normal courts did not exist or had little power.

Mainstream parties criticised the rebels for continuing the courts in Kathmandu and other cities after the government in May matched a Maoist truce. Both sides have since resumed peace talks that failed in 2001 and 2003.

''Our party gives special instructions to district committees not to run people's courts in big cities and the capital for the present to make the peace talks easy,'' Prachanda said in a statement in Nepali.

One rebel said the Maoist courts in villages would continue.

Prachanda also ordered his cadres not to extort money from the people but said the Maoists were under ''compulsion to collect voluntary donations'' to maintain their guerrillas.

The move came a day after Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula urged the rebels to end the courts, stop extortion and fulfil a commitment to June's power-sharing deal under which the government will include the Maoists in an interim cabinet.

That government will oversee polls for a special assembly to draft a new constitution and decide the future of the monarchy, a key rebel demand for ending their revolt in which more than 13,000 people have died.

The Maoists and the government also agreed to keep the rebel army and the Nepali army under the supervision of the United Nations during the polls. But no election date has been set.

''It is the duty of every patriotic and democratic Nepali to establish a republic through the peaceful elections to the constituent assembly,'' Prachanda said.

Last week, US ambassador to Nepal James Moriarty said Washington, a key donor which provides 45 million dollars a year, could stop aid if the Maoists -- listed by Washington as terrorists -- joined the interim government without giving up arms.

In an interview to Indian TV channel CNN-IBN, Prachanda said the rebels should get half the ministries in the interim government with the rest going to the seven main political parties in the existing interim administration.

Prachanda also said he wanted to contest the special assembly elections expected to be held in 2007.

''I'm very eager to contest elections ... I'll win,'' a transcript from the channel quoted him as saying ahead of the telecast.

REUTERS SHB RN2302

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