Fri, Nov 17, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Nepal peace pact postponed to iron out minor details

AFP , KATHMANDU

Signing of a historic peace accord to end a decade of bloody civil war in Nepal was postponed yesterday as the government and Maoist rebels said they needed more time to finalize the document.

Neither side would enter into detail about the issues holding up the signing, but they said they were not major.

"Both sides agreed to extend the deadline as there are some minor issues which need to be addressed properly," government negotiating team member Pradeep Gyawali said.

"There are no major problems," rebel negotiator Dev Gurung said.

A new date for the signing would be set by Nepali Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala after consulting with Maoist rebel leader Prachanda, the government negotiating team member said.

Prachanda was due to fly to New Delhi from Kathmandu today to attend a media conference, the first outing on the world stage for the reclusive rebel leader. There was no immediate word on whether his trip would go ahead.

An initial deal was struck last week that would see the Maoist rebels take 73 seats in a new 330-seat parliament to be formed before the end of the month.

In return, the rebels have pledged to end their "people's war" that has claimed over 12,500 lives, place their weapons and army under UN monitoring and join the political mainstream.

"Our whole party organization will focus on the peaceful political process rather than war," rebel negotiator Dina Nath Sharma told reporters earlier this week.

Sharma said that the party would change its war-time organizational structure.

Soon after mass protests in April forced King Gyanendra to end his 14-months of direct rule and restore parliament, both sides invited the UN to monitor the peace accord.

The UN has inspected the seven areas where rebels have proposed containing their army and weapons.

But it has said it would be impossible to have a full monitoring team in place by Nov. 21, when the government and Maoists agreed that the rebel soldiers would be confined to camps.

The UN mission would monitor about 35,000 rebel soldiers and the 90,000-strong Nepal Army.

The rebels began their insurgency with the goal of toppling the monarchy and establishing a communist republic in the Himalayan nation.

They now say they are prepared to work within a democratic system, but have called for an end to the monarchy.

The new pact states the monarchy's fate will be decided at a meeting after elections to a special body to rewrite Nepal's constitution that will be staged next year.

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