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Last Updated:  Friday, 28 February, 2003, 13:38 GMT
Nepal rebels set conditions for talks
Sushil Sharma
BBC correspondent in Kathmandu

Rebel fighters
The rebels have honoured the ceasefire
A negotiator for Nepal's Maoist rebels has presented two key conditions to start proposed peace talks with the government.

Krishna Bahadur Mahara said the government had to order the army back to the barracks and release Maoist prisoners before talks aimed at ending the insurgency could begin.

His comments follow informal consultations with the government's chief negotiator.

More than a month after the two sides announced a ceasefire, no date has yet been set for peace talks.

The head of the government's negotiating team, Narayan Singh Pun, has said talks could take place by the middle of March.

But Mr Mahara said the rebels had no knowledge of any firm date.

'Irresponsible behaviour'

However, he told the Nepali language Rajdhani newspaper on Friday that the talks could begin any time once the government met the rebel conditions.

Security personnel in Nepali capital Kathmandu
The Maoists want troops to be pulled back

He is in the five-member Maoist negotiating team to be led by a top rebel leader, Baburam Bhattarai.

Mr Mahara led the rebels in previous peace talks which broke down in November 2001 after three inconclusive rounds.

He has been holding informal consultations with the government negotiator and the leaders of political parties ahead of the proposed peace talks.

Mr Mahara accused the government of not being serious enough in creating a conducive atmosphere for the talks.

He said the initial optimism over talks has been dampened by what he described as "irresponsible behaviour of the government".

Constitutional demands

The rebels earlier complained that the government had violated the ceasefire, an allegation the authorities have denied.

Officials say the government is firmly committed to the peace process.

The government negotiator said that necessary preparations for a dialogue have been continuing and a mutually agreed code of conduct would soon be ready.

More than 7,000 people have died since the Maoists launched an armed struggle in February 1996, with the aim of replacing the monarchy with a communist republic.

More recently, they have been insisting on a round-table conference, an interim government, and a constituent assembly to frame a new constitution.


SEE ALSO:
Date set for Nepal talks
26 Feb 03 |  South Asia
Nepal ceasefire holds
25 Feb 03 |  South Asia
'Children killed' by Nepal rebels
20 Feb 03 |  South Asia
Nepal king sees hope for peace
19 Feb 03 |  South Asia
Nepal rebels warn of 'conspiracy'
17 Feb 03 |  South Asia
Q&A: Nepal ceasefire
29 Jan 03 |  South Asia


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