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 Friday, 10 January, 2003, 16:16 GMT
Naga rebels make poll pledge
LK Advani (left) with Isak Chishi Swu (centre) and Thuingaleng Muivah
The peace talks have not pleased all Naga groups
Naga separatist leaders have said they will not ask the people of the north-eastern Indian state of Nagaland to boycott elections in February.

The chairman of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland, Isak Chishi Swu, made the announcement after meeting India's Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani in Delhi.

Map showing Nagaland and Manipur
In previous elections, the council has called on the Nagaland people not to vote, often with violent consequences.

The talks with Mr Advani were focusing on power-sharing, said government chief negotiator K Padmanabhaiah.

Mr Swu and fellow rebel leader Thuingaleng Muivah had met Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on Thursday at the start of the talks aimed at ending the long-running ethnic conflict.

The rebel leaders praised what they called the wisdom and sincerity of the Indian Government.

They said Delhi was trying to solve the conflict according to the ''history'' of the Naga people.

Opposing faction

It is the first time in 37 years the council has agreed to talks on Indian soil.

We praise the wisdom of the government of India. There is a much better understanding on their part

Thuingaleng Muivah

However, another factional group, headed by Burmese Naga separatist leader SS Khaplang, has voiced strong opposition to Delhi's decision to continue the talks only with Mr Swu and Mr Muivah.

Thousands have died in the fight for a separate homeland for the Naga people in India's north-east over the past 50 years.

Mr Swu said after the 40-minute meeting with Mr Vajpayee: ''The prime minister and the Indian leadership are very sincere.

''We shall try to achieve the solution through peaceful means.''

Naga rebels on the Assam-Nagaland border
The Naga conflict has spanned 50 years

Mr Muivah added: ''We praise the wisdom of the government of India. There is a much better understanding on their part."

The talks centred on the possible creation of a "Greater Nagaland" by carving slices off the neighbouring states of Assam and Manipur.

However, these states strongly oppose the plan.

''There would be more turmoil than peace in the region if Delhi tries to appease the council by agreeing to a Greater Nagaland," said the chief minister of Manipur, Okram Ibobi Singh.

See also:

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