Thu, May 04, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Nepal's Cabinet declares ceasefire with Maoist rebels

AP , KATHMANDU

Nepal's Cabinet declared a ceasefire yesterday with Maoist rebels and urged them to open peace talks with the government, Deputy Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli said.

He added that all terrorism-related charges will be dropped against the insurgents, and the government will end its designation of the Maoists as a terrorist group.

The moves are in response to the unilateral truce announced by the rebels after three weeks of often-bloody protests forced King Gyanendra to yield control over the government last week.

The Maoists played a key role in the protests and appear headed for a role in the political mainstream.

They have been fighting since 1996 to create a communist state. The insurgency has left 13,000 people dead.

Two previous mutual ceasefires -- in 2001 and 2003 -- both broke down after a few months.

"The government decided to declare a ceasefire," Oli said. "All terrorist charges on the Maoists have been removed. We are urging the Maoists to come forward for peace talks."

Added Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat: "We expect the Maoists to come to the talks."

But in a worrying sign, Prachanda, the Maoists' leader, has accused the seven-party alliance that led the protests against the king of engaging in a power struggle.

He said that the legislature -- which convened on Friday for the first time in four years -- wasn't up to the tasks at hand.

"This is not the solution to the problems and the demand of the Maoists," he wrote in a pro-Maoist weekly newspaper.

"The House has no fresh mandate and cannot solve the problems," he wrote.

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