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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 August, 2004, 15:42 GMT 16:42 UK
Nepal hints at talks with Maoists
Nepal's Maoist rebels
The Maoists want an end to the monarchy
A senior Nepalese minister has hinted the government may be holding secret negotiations with Maoist rebels aimed at resolving years of conflict.

Information Minister Mohammad Mohsin told reporters peace efforts remained the new administration's top priority.

Asked if talks were already underway, he said maybe, but would not elaborate.

Violence has escalated since talks broke down last summer. About 9,000 people have died since the Maoists began fighting for a republic in 1996.

'No publicity'

Mr Mohsin refused to say at what level and where talks might have been held.

But he stressed that any discussions would take place away from the public eye, and details would be available only after progress had been made.

Previous peace efforts had failed because of too much media attention, he said.

"Initial negotiations have to be held in camera without publicity."

Mr Mohsin added that international mediation, for instance by the United Nations, might be possible at a later stage.

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