Fri, Nov 10, 2006 - Page 9 News List

Nepalese peace arrangement still needs work

The historic deal sees rebels trade weapons for seats in the new parliament, but it will not be as simple as it sounds

AFP , KATHMANDU

A landmark peace deal in Nepal to end a decade-old conflict remained tentative as Maoists and the government were still at odds on rebel arms and the future of the king, analysts said.

The historic agreement had "generated lots of hope and optimism, but it is not complete," said Kapil Shrestha, a political science professor at Nepal's Tribhuvan University.

In the early hours of Wednesday, the two sides clinched a deal that would see the rebels place their weapons under UN supervision, in return for being granted 73 seats in a 330-seat interim parliament and joining an interim government.

"It [the agreement] cannot automatically lead to perpetual peace and tranquility. We still have a lot more to do to address the core issues of conflict," Shrestha said.

A Western diplomat echoed Shrestha's assessment.

"It's an important milestone but much work remains to be done. Implementation is the key," the diplomat said on condition of anonymity. "Not surprisingly, arms management is one of the main weaknesses in the agreement because it's such a complicated issue."

The rebels had pledged to confine militia and arms to seven camps around the country, but the logistics of the plan were complicated, the diplomat said.

"What will happen to the militia? What sanctions will there be if the agreement is broken? Can the UN really monitor all the weapons?" the diplomat said.

Those details will be handled by UN representative Ian Martin, who was appointed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan as his personal representative in the peace process.

Martin has four experts -- a Norwegian general, a political adviser, a ceasefire monitoring adviser and an electoral adviser -- to oversee the arms deal.

They would be expected to encounter tension in the peace deal's implementation, said Rabindra Khanal, a political science professor at Tribhuvan, Nepal's oldest university.

"The deal is positive but it is just a basic agreement. More tensions lie ahead on the issues of monarchy and arms management," Khanal said.

The rebels had their work cut out trying to gain the legitimacy they sought, Khanal added.

"There is also the need to change their party policies. They will need to get along with people in the coming days, [and] they must now focus on giving up arms to build trust and confidence," he said.

The other major issue is the fate of the monarchy, which the agreement says will be decided after elections, at the first meeting of a body charged with rewriting Nepal's Constitution.

The rebels had previously said the only future for the king was death or exile, but have since tempered their line since they joined with political parties to end King Gyanendra's direct rule in April.

They now say they will abide by the constituent assembly's decision.

Until then, the agreement states that Gyanendra "will have no authority over national administration."

The king, who was stripped of control of the army, might lobby to retain a role in what, until April, was the world's only Hindu monarchy, but he was expected to go along with whatever decision was made, the diplomat said.

"I think he will accept this, as he has no other choice. But come the time of the constituent assembly election he will become more active," he said.

Signs of dissent on terms of the deal over the king were already evident on Wednesday.

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