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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 March 2007, 12:37 GMT
Nepal Maoists in damage control
By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Kathmandu

Nepal's Maoists
The question of Maoist weapons has become contentious
Nepal's Maoist party has sought to limit damage caused by remarks from its top leader who said former rebels still have thousands of unregistered weapons.

Reports on the original comments by Maoist chairman Prachanda prompted the UN mission in Nepal to express concern.

Prachanda's deputy Baburam Bhattarai confirmed the remarks but said he meant them to be understood differently.

Nepal's prime minister said the remarks would complicate moves to bring Maoists into government under the peace accord.

'Bombs, not guns'

Contacted by the BBC, the Maoists' deputy leader confirmed that his party chairman had indeed said the Maoists have thousands of weapons outside the cantonments - the UN-approved camps where other arms have already been stored away.

Prachanda says his original remarks were satirical

He said Prachanda had used a generic Nepali word meaning weapons, but had actually been thinking of bombs when he said it.

Dr Bhattarai said the bombs had not been hidden but had been placed outside the cantonments with the UN's knowledge.

"Our insurgency was fought mainly with bombs, not firearms," he said.

Asked whether there were Maoist combatants outside the camps, Dr Bhattarai quoted Prachanda as saying there were thousands of Maoists outside who could "make bombs and fight a war", while not being members of the Maoist army.

They had thousands of ideological weapons at their disposal, he added.

Prachanda himself has made similar comments to a newspaper, saying his original remarks were satirical.

UN role

The UN mission, UNMIN, says any unregistered Maoist weapons would be in violation of agreements.

It says explosive devices have been placed a safe distance from the camps and are being catalogued.

In a separate development, the Royal Palace has issued a statement strongly denying allegations from the Maoists that the palace was plotting to kill political leaders to derail the peace process.

It described the accusations as "fabricated and malicious".

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