Nepal's new multi-party government and Maoist rebels said yesterday they may request the UN to monitor a ceasefire in the Himalayan nation after holding further talks.
The government, formed after last month's violent pro-democracy protests that forced King Gyanendra to hand back power to political parties, matched a ceasefire this month declared earlier by the Maoist guerrillas.
On Friday, government and rebel negotiators held their first meeting since 2003, and agreed to a 25-point code of conduct vowing to push the peace process forward including a commitment to end provocations and stop using arms to intimidate people.
Pradip Gyanwali, a government negotiator, said a formal ceasefire agreement and a human rights accord were expected to be signed with the rebels soon.
"Once we have those agreements in place, it will be easy for us to request the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal to monitor the truce," Gyanwali said. "This is our understanding."
Maoist negotiator Dinanath Sharma said both sides had agreed in principle to engage a third party, possibly the UN, to monitor the truce.
"This may be discussed in our next meeting," Sharma said, adding they were expected to meet later this week.
Both sides have agreed to hold early elections for an assembly to draft a new constitution and decide the future of the monarchy, a key rebel demand to end the insurgency.
The initial talks are also expected to prepare for a meeting between rebel chief Prachanda and Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala.
Hopes for an end to Nepal's decade-long insurgency have been raised since the multi-party government took power last month after King Gyanendra ended nearly 15-months of absolute rule.
The insurgency, aimed at toppling the monarchy, has claimed more than 13,000 lives and wrecked impoverished Nepal's economy.
Previous peace talks in 2001 and 2003 failed.
Meanwhile, hundreds of doctors returned to work yesterday after a three-day strike to protest attacks on at least two hospitals following the deaths of patients, the Nepal Medical Association said.
The attacks came amid public anger at widespread medical malpractice in Nepal, where there is no system to punish offenders.
Kiran Shrestha, general secretary of the association, said the doctors ended the strike after police arrested three people suspected of involvement in the attacks and gave assurances that there would full investigations.