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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 October 2005, 06:58 GMT 07:58 UK
Amnesty offer for Nepal Maoists
By Sushil Sharma
BBC News, Kathmandu

Maoist rebels
The government says more than 4,000 rebels have laid down their arms
The Nepalese government has made a fresh amnesty offer to the country's Maoist rebels.

The authorities said that rebels who surrendered by mid-January next year would be given a mass amnesty.

There has been no immediate response to the government's offer from the Maoist rebels.

More than 12,000 people have died since the rebels launched an armed struggle in 1996 to replace the monarchy with a republican regime.

The authorities say that the rebels can surrender with or without arms.

The government last made a similar offer two years ago.

A home ministry spokesman said that more than 4,000 rebels had surrendered since then.

The spokesman, Gopendra Bahadur Pandey, said that the number had increased in recent months.

He said the latest offer was aimed at encouraging more rebels to give up violence.

Drawing closer

The offer has coincided with persistent pressure on the government to respond to the Maoist ceasefire.

The rebels declared a three-month unilateral ceasefire in September, to open a dialogue with mainstream political parties which have been protesting over the royal takeover of the government in February.

Formal talks between the parties and the rebels have not taken place yet.

But there have been reports that the Maoist Communist Party is drawing closer to an alliance with the mainstream political parties against the royal regime.

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