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UN presses for safe return of Nepal war displaced

Written by: Staff
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KATHMANDU, Dec 4 (Reuters) Nepal's Maoist rebels and government must ensure the safe return of hundreds of thousands of people who fled their homes during the country's decade-old, bloody civil war, the United Nations said today.

The UN says up to 200,000 Nepalis have been driven from their homes to other parts of the country as well as neighbouring India since 1996 when Maoist insurgents began a revolt against the monarchy.

Last month, the government and rebels signed a landmark peace deal ending the conflict which has killed more than 13,000 people.

As part of the pact, the Maoists agreed to store their weapons under the supervision of the UN and join a mainstream government.

Both sides promised to facilitate the safe return of those who have been displaced.

''We now call on both sides to fulfil their commitment by creating the conditions for such returns to take place,'' UN agencies dealing with human rights, humanitarian affairs and refugees said in a joint statement.

Aid workers say some people returned to their homes after the peace process began in May, but that some among them could not settle down due to insecurity and a lack of income.

''The commitments made in the CPA mean that there must be an end to all activities that obstruct the right of the displaced to voluntarily return in safety and dignity,'' the UN statement said, referring to the peace deal signed last month.

''Displaced persons must also be able to claim restitution or compensation for lost land, housing and other property.'' Officials said many of those who have been uprooted from their homes have been living for years in makeshift mud and thatch huts or with relatives in cities with little access to food, healthcare or education for their children.

REUTERS BDP VC2036

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