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Draft interim constitution ready: Nepal panel

Written by: Staff

Kathmandu, Aug 9: A panel in Nepal has finalised a draft for a temporary constitution, a key first step towards the formation of an interim government that will include Maoist rebels.

The draft will be submitted to the multi-party government and rebels later today, the head of the 15-member panel said.

''It is only a draft and both sides can debate it and make necessary changes,'' Laxman Prasad Aryal, a retired Supreme Court judge, told Reuters.

The interim government will supervise elections to a special assembly meant to draw up a permanent constitution and decide the future of the monarchy.

Nepal's mainstream political parties agreed a ceasefire with Maoist rebels in May, shortly after mass protests forced King Gyanendra to surrender power. In June, the two sides agreed to set an interim government, guided by an interim constitution.

''This is a temporary document that will be in force until a new constitution is prepared by the constituent assembly when it is elected,'' Aryal said.'' But wrangling over how to manage weapons held by the rebels and the army has delayed the formation of the interim government.

The rebels say they will not lay down their arms before the constituent assembly vote in 2007 but are prepared to keep their armed fighters confined to camps if the army does the same.

The government wants the Maoists to surrender their weapons.

As the row intensified, a senior Maoist leader warned that the peace process was ''close to collapse''.

The assembly vote is a key rebel demand for ending their decade-old insurgency aimed at replacing the monarchy with a republic. The conflict has killed more than 13,000 people in one of the world's poorest nations.

The Maoists have been angered by comments from Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala who said this week the king should have some ''space' in any new political system in the Himalayan nation.


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