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Monday, 23 July, 2001, 16:32 GMT 17:32 UK
Nepal truce raises peace hopes
Police casualties
Rebel attacks have intensified over the past month
The government and rebels in Nepal have announced a ceasefire to pave the way for talks to try to end the growing Maoist revolt in the country.


Other steps necessary to create an atmosphere of confidence for talks will be taken soon.

Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba
The new premier, Sher Bahadur Deuba, said the security forces had been ordered to halt their operations against the rebels.

At the same time, the chairman of the underground Maoist Communist Party, Prachanda, announced that his group was suspending all armed action against the government for the time being.

It is not clear how long the suspension of hostilities is meant to last.

More than 1,500 people have been killed since 1996, when Maoist guerrillas began their violent campaign to replace Nepal's constitutional monarchy with a communist republic.

Appeal

The statement by Prime Minister Deuba said other steps would be taken soon to create the right atmosphere for talks.

New Nepali Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba
Sher Bahadur Deuba: Appealed for end to violence
Earlier on Monday, Mr Deuba had appealed to the rebels to end their campaign of violence.

The appeal came a day after the rebels killed at least 17 policemen at a police station in Bajura district - the prime minister's home district - 600 km (370 miles) north-west of the capital Kathmandu.

Mr Deuba, who took over as prime minister on Sunday, had made clear that his top priority was to end the rebels' six-year-old insurrection, and has offered to hold talks with them.

The new prime minister held initial meetings with some rebel leaders last year, but blamed the government for failing to respond to their offer of peace talks.

Campaign intensifies

The rebels have stepped up their campaign in the aftermath of the massacre of the Royal family last month, which they have blamed on new King Gyanendra.

They have dubbed the new monarch a "puppet of India and America's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)".

The latest attack follows the release of 15 policemen being held hostage by the rebels on Saturday in an apparent goodwill gesture.

Another 59 policemen remain in captivity after being seized in a rebel attack on a police station in Nuwa village in Rolpa district, 350 kilometres (220 miles) west of Kathmandu more than a week ago.

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See also:

20 Jul 01 | South Asia
Nepal contender urges dialogue
14 Jul 01 | South Asia
Hunt continues for Nepal hostages
13 Jul 01 | South Asia
Nepal army clashes with Maoists
07 Jul 01 | South Asia
Nepal rebels step up attacks
04 Jul 01 | South Asia
Eyewitness: Nepal's Maoist power base
14 May 01 | South Asia
Nepal's growing rural revolt
04 Jul 01 | South Asia
Nepal's Maoists on the move
29 Jun 01 | South Asia
Nepal king backs democracy
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