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Last Updated: Monday, 13 February 2006, 17:39 GMT
'Exile or trial' for Nepal king
Rebel leader Prachanda
Only one photo of Prachanda had been in circulation until now
Nepal's top Maoist rebel leader has said the only future he can envisage for King Gyanendra is exile or trial.

Prachanda made his remarks in a rare BBC interview to mark the 10th anniversary of the Maoist revolt.

He said a trial of the king might take place in a "people's court", leading to possible execution.

However, elsewhere in the interview Prachanda also said he could envisage Nepal remaining a monarchy if the people wanted it.

Whatever decision the people should give, we will be ready to accept this
Maoist leader Prachanda

Nepal's minister of state for information, Shrish Shumsher Rana, described the remarks as "unfortunate".

Asked whether it was time to consider direct negotiations with the Maoists, Mr Rana said the interview had made it clear the Maoists would give no quarter to their opponents or go back on their demands.

'People's verdict'

This was the first face-to-face broadcast interview given by the Maoist's reclusive chairman, Prachanda, who has been living an underground existence for 25 years.

His rebels now control much of the countryside, but the BBC's Charles Haviland in Kathmandu, who conducted the interview, says this is a conflict most observers believe neither side can win militarily.

INTERVIEW IN FULL
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The Maoists are pressing for an elected assembly to write a new Nepalese constitution.

Prachanda said he believed such an assembly would make Nepal into a republic. But he said his party would accept "the people's verdict".

"Whatever decision the people should give, we will be ready to accept this," he told the BBC.

Asked if that meant he would theoretically be able to accept a people's verdict of keeping the monarchy, he said: "Yes, theoretically it is like that."

But asked later what place the king might have in Nepal five years from now, Prachanda said: "I think he'll either be executed by the people's court or maybe exiled."

He said the king, who took direct political power a year ago, had left no room for compromise.

Nepal does not allow capital punishment and Prachanda's comments will shock many Nepalis and probably cause discomfort to a group of opposition parties which recently signed a political agreement with the Maoists, our correspondent says.

'Pragmatic'

Prachanda said he was "saddened" by the number of deaths in the conflict - some 13,000 - and by what he called accidents such as the death of children in bomb blasts.

A Nepalese Maoist guerrilla woman holds a rifle while watching an armed exercise in Bhojpur, eastern Nepal
The rebels are in effective control of large swathes of rural Nepal

But he was unrepentant about using violence against those he described as informers.

Asked if the Maoists aimed to conquer the capital, Kathmandu, militarily, he said that foreign help to the government had made that difficult, and that such an action would "cause a lot of harm to the Nepali people".

Analysts say the Maoists are nowadays a pragmatic party, and for much of this interview the 52-year-old Maoist reflected this, our correspondent says.

But at other times he spoke with what seemed like rage against those he repeatedly described as feudalists, he adds.


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