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Friday, 7 February, 2003, 10:20 GMT
Nepal Maoists voice peace hopes
Rebel leaders Prachanda (R), Baburam Bhattarai (L) and Ram Bahadur Thapa (2nd R)
Prachanda (right) warned against government "foul play"

The leader of Nepal's Maoist rebels has said he is optimistic about planned peace talks, but wants the government to take steps to boost confidence.

Prachanda called for the release of jailed Maoist rebels and for the army to return to barracks.

He said the rebels were determined to reach a peaceful solution to the seven-year insurgency.

However, he warned the rebels would break the dialogue and resume hostilities at any sign of government foul play.

'Serious approach'

Prachanda, the chairman of the underground Maoist communist party, was giving his first formal interview since the government and the rebels agreed last week to impose an immediate cease-fire and begin peace talks.

Police on the streets of Kathmandu
About 7,000 have died in the seven-year insurgency
In the interview, given to the Nepali language Rajdhani newspaper, Prachanda said success for the peace talks would depend on a serious approach by all sides, including King Gyanendra and the mainstream political parties.

Prachanda said that for confidence in the peace process to be boosted, the government must

  • Release jailed Maoist activists
  • Provide information about those who have allegedly disappeared in police custody
  • Call the army back into barracks and
  • Work to frame a mutually acceptable code of conduct for the dialogue.

    The rebels pulled out of peace talks and resumed attacks on government targets in November 2001 after three inconclusive rounds.

    Prachanda said that the rebels were determined to reach a peaceful solution in return for what he called "progressive changes".

    The rebels have been calling for a round-table conference, an interim government and a constituent assembly which, they believe, will clear the way for replacing the present constitution.

    This guarantees constitutional monarchy in a multi-party democracy.

    Cautious optimism

    The rebels favour a republican regime, although there have been vague indications that they have softened their position.

    The rebels this week named a five-member negotiating team led by a senior leader, Baburam Bhattarai.

    A senior minister, Narayan Singh Pun, has been named as the chief government negotiator.

    The date and the venue of the talks have not been set yet.

    There is cautious optimism over the fresh peace moves, which are aimed at ending a conflict in which 7,000 people have been killed.

  • Background to Nepal's Maoist war

    Analysis

    Eyewitness

    Background:

    BBC NEPALI SERVICE
    See also:

    05 Feb 03 | South Asia
    02 Feb 03 | South Asia
    30 Jan 03 | South Asia
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