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Nepal rebels unhappy over UN invitation on arms

Written by: Staff

Kathmandu, July 6: Nepal's Maoists are unhappy with the government's invitation to the United Nations to monitor weapons held by the guerrillas and the army ahead of elections, a rebel leader said today.

The comments came three days after Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala wrote to ask Secretary-General Kofi Annan for UN monitoring in the run-up the polls for an assembly to map the nation's political future.

The vote is a key rebel demand for ending their decade-old insurgency that has killed more than 13,000 people. Koirala's request followed an agreement between the rebels and the government in June for help in monitoring arms.

But Dev Gurung, a rebel negotiator, said the government had written to the UN without consulting the Maoists.

''Both parties have to reach an understanding first on how to involve the UN,'' Gurung told Reuters. ''We cannot accept this because there has to be a consensus.'' Monitoring weapons is critical to free and fair elections as the Maoists control large patches of the Himalayan nation and are known to enforce their writ through threats.

Koirala, appointed after King Gyanendra gave in to pro-democracy protests in April, and Maoist chief Prachanda last month also agreed to include the rebels in an interim government to oversee the vote expected in 2007.

Initially, the Maoists insisted on UN supervision of both the rebel and state forces. But last week Prachanda said there was no need for foreign involvement.

''First, we have to manage the army and their arms ourselves. We should seek the U.N. assistance in technical matters,'' Gurung said.

Both sides are observing a ceasefire for two months and have since resumed peace talks that failed in 2001 and 2003.


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