Nepal's government and rebels signed a peace deal yesterday to end a decade-long insurgency, paving the way for the guerrillas to join the country's interim government.
Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and Maoist rebel leader Prachanda signed the accord at a Katmandu convention hall packed with cheering officials, dignitaries and foreign diplomats.
The deal came after months of negotiations that centered on how to to disarm the insurgents and bring them into the government, which they helped bring to power by backing widespread protests earlier this year against the royal dictatorship of King Gyanendra.
The agreement will formally end the insurgency in which more than 13,000 people have been killed. The accord was meant to have been signed last week, but finalization was postponed as both sides said some issues still had to be resolved.
After months of negotiations, the rebels reached a landmark agreement with the government earlier this month on the key issues of how to disarm the guerrillas and bring them into an interim government.
The two sides agreed that rebel fighters would be confined to camps and their weapons locked up under UN monitoring by yesterday, another deadline that was likely to be missed.
Although thousands of rebels were heading to or had reached the areas where seven camps are to be set up, UN officials said they could not put monitors in place by the deadline and weren't sure when the monitors would be ready.
Under the agreement, the rebels are to join an interim parliament by this Sunday. An interim government including the rebels is to be in place by Friday next week.