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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 11 March, 2003, 13:43 GMT
Nepal rebels hold public talks
Maoist rebels in camp
The rebels are talking about a 'positive beginning'
Maoist rebels in Nepal have emerged in public for the first time in 16 months.

They attended a meeting of mainstream political parties in the capital Kathmandu on Tuesday.

Several rebel leaders discussed plans with left-wing opposition parties for holding peace talks to end their long-running insurrection .

The move comes as the government tries to get the agreement of the main parties on the mechanics of holding talks with the rebels.

Correspondents say the meeting has boosted hopes that the rebels are serious about the still-nebulous peace process.

Code of conduct

Two senior rebel leaders took part in a meeting of 10 left-wing parties on Tuesday. The Maoists have not commented on the details or outcome of the talks.

This shows the Maoists have begun to participate in the political mainstream
Subash Nemwang, opposition politician

But senior rebel leader Dina Nath Sharma was quoted by the Reuters news agency as saying, "It is a positive beginning," before the meeting.

Subash Nemwang, a leader of the opposition United Marxist-Leninists (UML) party who attended the meeting, said, "This shows the Maoists have begun to participate in the political mainstream."

From the government's side, senior Minister Narayan Singh Pun says informal consultations with rebel leaders are continuing.

He told the BBC on Tuesday the two sides had plans to hold a goodwill meeting later this week.

The BBC's Sushil Sharma in Kathmandu says the government has been consulting the political parties on the code of conduct for the proposed peace talks with the Maoists.

'Scepticism'

Prime Minister Lokendra Bahadur Chand met Nepal's smaller parties on Tuesday, a day after four of the six major parties which had members in the dissolved parliament, boycotted a similar meeting.

Maoist rebels on the prowl
About 7,000 people have been killed in the insurrection

Major parties such as the centrist Nepali Congress and the UML have been refusing to recognise Mr Chand's government.

The cabinet was installed by King Gyanendra after he sacked the elected government last year.

The Nepali Congress wants the king to reinstate the dissolved parliament to clear way for an elected government. The UML wants him to return executive powers to an all-party government.

Sushil Sharma says the role of the major parties is considered crucial for the success of the peace talks. The government insists it has no intention of sidelining the parties.

Hopes for early peace talks have soared in recent weeks, but analysts say there is still scepticism about the chances of ending the insurgency in which 7,000 people have died.


SEE ALSO:
Nepal rebels set conditions for talks
28 Feb 03 |  South Asia
Date set for Nepal talks
26 Feb 03 |  South Asia
Nepal ceasefire holds
25 Feb 03 |  South Asia
'Children killed' by Nepal rebels
20 Feb 03 |  South Asia
Q&A: Nepal ceasefire
29 Jan 03 |  South Asia


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