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Last Updated: Monday, 15 September, 2003, 20:12 GMT 21:12 UK
Bhutan offers rebels talks
The king of Bhutan has called for talks with separatists using his country to launch attacks in north-east India.

The Bhutanese king with Prime Minister Vajpayee in Delhi
Bhutan's ruler is on a goodwill visit to Delhi

King Jigme Singye Wangchuk said rebels fighting to wrest the state of Assam from Indian control were operating up to 20 training camps in Bhutan's forests.

Speaking on a visit to the Indian capital, Delhi, he said he hoped the rebels would agree to the talks and leave Bhutan peacefully.

However, the king did not say what his government would do if the rebels failed to respond.

The king is on a five-day visit to India.

Negotiated settlement

His tiny Himalayan kingdom has traditionally had good relations with its much larger neighbour, observers say.

However, the Indian army says roughly 3,000 rebels fighting for an independent Assam have been lying low in Bhutan.

It wants the Bhutanese authorities to eject militants belonging to the outlawed United Liberation Front of Assam and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland.

Bhutan favours a negotiated solution.

"We are hoping that through a process of dialogue we can peacefully resolve the problem, by which I mean removing militant camps which they have illegally and forcefully established inside Bhutan," said the king.

Indian paramilitary soldier in Assam
Indian forces have been playing cat and mouse with the rebels
He said he had invited representatives of the insurgent groups to talks in the Bhutanese capital, Thimpu.

Indian Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal said Bhutan had maintained a consistent stand on the issue.

He denied that the Indian Government had set Bhutan a deadline for dealing with the rebels.

"It is a 12-year-old problem and there could not be a time-bound solution to it," said Mr Sibal.

During his Delhi visit, the king holding talks with India's President, APJ Abdul Kalam, and the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee.

He is also expected to begin discussions on a proposed hydro-electric scheme in Bhutan.




SEE ALSO:
Bhutan gives rebels 'final chance'
02 Jul 03  |  South Asia
Indian rebels leave Bhutan
01 Jul 03  |  South Asia
Indian troops kill Assam rebels
21 Dec 02  |  South Asia
Indian rebel leader arrested
06 Dec 02  |  South Asia
Indian army kills Bodo rebels
27 Nov 02  |  South Asia
Bhutan moves towards democracy
07 Dec 02  |  South Asia


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