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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 July 2006, 08:33 GMT 09:33 UK
UN team in Nepal by 'next week'
Maoist rebels
The Maoists rigorously defend their right to bear arms
The Nepalese deputy prime minister has said that a United Nations team is to arrive next week to assess Nepal's needs in the ongoing peace process.

KP Sharma Oli said the UN team is arriving in response to a formal request made by the Nepalese government earlier this month.

However, Maoist rebels allege the invitation is in breach of an earlier agreement between the two sides.

They agreed a power-sharing deal after the king abandoned direct rule in June.

Take responsibility

On Wednesday the government published the contents of a letter by the Prime Minister, Girija Prasad Koirala, to the UN.

It revealed for the first time that elections for a constituent assembly are scheduled to be held before next April.

Nepalese Deputy Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli (right) with UN officials
Mr Oli {right} has dismissed Maoist concerns about UN involvement

The letter - addressed to the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan - was written by the prime minister and requested that the UN take responsibility for decommissioning weapons held by Maoist rebels.

Reports of the letter's existence first began circulating 10 days ago. At the time, the rebels objected to the fact they were not consulted before it was sent.

The prime minister urged the UN to assist in monitoring the ongoing truce between the two sides and ensure that they abide by a code of conduct.

The BBC's Bhagirath Yogi in Kathmandu says the government also asked for help in ensuring that the Nepalese Army is not used during elections to the constituent assembly.

Maoist rebels say the request made to the UN to assist in decommissioning their arms is also a breach the agreement made with the government.

In an interview with the BBC, chief Maoist negotiator Krishna Bahadur Mahara said that the agreement specifically mentioned inviting the UN to monitor the management of armed personnel of both sides.

But Mr Oli - who is also Nepal's foreign minister - dismissed the remarks.

He said that the decommissioning of arms by a country's army had not taken place anywhere in the world.

Our correspondent says that both sides have nevertheless expressed hope that their recent differences will not hamper ongoing efforts to find a negotiated settlement to end the decade-old Maoist insurgency, which has claimed more than 13,000 lives.

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