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Saturday, 11 May, 2002, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
Confusion deepens over Nepal truce
Nepalese soldiers look on as body of comrade killed in action is taken for cremation
The government seems keen to press its advantage
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By Sushil Sharma
BBC correspondent in Kathmandu

In Nepal, confusion over reports of a cease-fire offered by Maoist rebels has deepened.

The Chairman of the underground Maoist Communist Party (MCP), Prachanda, has reportedly disowned an earlier statement in which he was said to have announced a unilateral cease-fire beginning next Wednesday.

All-party peace rally in Kathmandu
Many Nepalese want an end to the war

But a leading Nepali language newspaper has quoted him, in what it says is his fresh statement, as saying that the rebels are still ready for a cease-fire.

Mr Prachanda's denial came a day after similar comments by another senior rebel leader who ruled out a cease-fire because, he said, the rebels were winning in the conflict with security forces.

The Nepal Samacharpatra newspaper said on Saturday that the rebel leader had described Thursday's announcement of a unilateral cease-fire as totally false and fictitious.

Confusing denial

In an interview with the BBC Hindi service on Friday, MCP politburo member Dinanath Sharma described the reported truce offer from the rebels as a conspiracy hatched by the Nepalese Government.

Kathmandu woman passes soldier on guard
Security needs put pressure on economy

But in his most recent statement, the top Maoist leader, Prachanda, has not ruled out a cease-fire.

The newspaper quoted him as saying that the rebels were ready for dialogue and, if necessary, for a cease-fire too.

Following the denial of his purported statement allegedly made earlier, which had been e-mailed to some Nepalese newspapers on Thursday, the authenticity of Mr Prachanda's fresh statement too is now open to question.

In the past, too, the rebels often faxed or e-mailed their statements to media organisations.

But this is the first time in six years of the Maoist insurgency that they have issued a denial.

Mounting toll

The reason behind this is not clear. Some say the rebels suspect a conspiracy.

Others say a rift may have developed in the rebel ranks, who have been fighting to replace the constitutional monarchy with a Communist republic.

Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba
Nepal has received broad international support

Whatever the truth, the latest incident is certain to further erode the Maoists' credibility, and dim the prospects of an early resumption of peace talks to end the bloody insurgency.

Hundreds of rebels and government troops have died over the past week in the fiercest clashes ever, in a key rebel stronghold, Rolpa, in western Nepal.

These clashes have raised the death toll in the six-year insurrection to more than 4,000.

The Nepalese Prime Minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, says that unless they renounced violence, the rebels cannot be trusted.

This is an obvious reference to last November when the Maoists unilaterally broke a cease-fire, pulled out of peace talks and resumed armed attacks on government targets.

See also:

10 May 02 | South Asia
Nepal rebels deny truce
10 May 02 | South Asia
Nepal PM rejects rebel 'truce'
09 May 02 | South Asia
Nepal rebels 'offer truce'
08 May 02 | South Asia
Fighting rages in Nepal
08 May 02 | South Asia
Nepal lays siege to rebels
05 May 02 | South Asia
Nepal PM on crucial US visit
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