Fri, Nov 24, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Nepalis take to streets to celebrate peace deal

AGENCIES , KATHMANDU

Rallies celebrating Nepal's peace deal swept the country on Wednesday, and King Gyanendra accepted the pact between the government and communist rebels who had jointly forced him to give up his authoritarian rule.

The unexpected announcement by the royal palace on Wednesday followed an agreement between the rebels and government, ending a 10-year insurgency that killed more than 13,000 people.

"His Majesty the king is pleased that a peace agreement has been concluded in keeping with the nation's needs and people's aspirations," a palace statement said.

Nepalese Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and Maoist rebel leader Prachanda signed the accord on Tuesday.

The government declared Wednesday a public holiday and asked residents to illuminate their homes and officials to light up public buildings to mark the end of a conflict.

Around 10,000 people attended rallies organized by political parties and the Maoists in Kathmandu.

People waved hammer and sickle flags and chanted slogans such as "This is a victory for peace-loving people" and "Implement the deal."

"I hope no mother will lose her children to conflict and no children will become orphans any more due to violence," said 54-year-old Kathmandu street vegetable vendor Punam Shrestha.

Nepalis were optimistic of better times, but wary of the challenges of turning paper promises into lasting peace.

"We are on the threshold of peace and a new history," said Yubaraj Ghimire, editor of the widely read news magazine, Samay, adding that the signatories now needed to keep their promises.

Maoist leaders will take seats alongside elected politicians in parliament and join an interim government to oversee elections for an assembly that will draft a new Constitution and decide the fate of the monarchy.

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