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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 May 2006, 12:41 GMT 13:41 UK
Nepal rebels agree to peace talks
Maoist rebels in Nepal
Maoist rebels are fighting for a communist republic
Maoist rebels in Nepal have welcomed a government ceasefire offer and said they are ready to enter peace talks.

A statement from rebel leader Prachanda called the indefinite truce a "positive step". The rebels announced their own three-month ceasefire last week.

"We hope that the peace talks will not fail this time," Prachanda said. Talks broke down in 2001 and 2003.

More than 13,000 people have been killed in Nepal since the rebels began their fight for a republic in 1996.

'Historic'

The BBC's Sushil Sharma in Kathmandu says the date and venue for talks and the negotiators have not been decided yet.

We are entering into a dialogue process, feeling deep responsibility for people's aspirations towards democracy and peace
Rebel leader Prachanda

Prachanda said that a code of conduct had already been presented to the government. He said he hoped the government would "sincerely implement it" but did not give details.

He said that the talks would be aimed at clearing the way for elections to a constituent assembly, which, it is planned, will draft a new constitution and decide the future role of the monarchy.

He said the parliament that King Gyanendra reinstated last week after weeks of street protests forced an end to direct palace rule would have to be dissolved ahead of the proposed elections for the constituent assembly.

"We believe that the talks this time will not be unsuccessful like the two previous ones because there is a historic moment behind this," he added.

Role of monarchy

The government has already agreed to hold elections to draw up a new constitution that will decide the future of the monarchy, which the rebels want abolished.

Previous talks between the government and the rebels, who now control large swathes of rural Nepal, were unable to bridge differences over the remit of the constitutional body.

But last year the rebels and the seven-party alliance which opposed the king agreed to work together against him.

Politicians have promised to work with the rebels as a prelude to bringing them into government.

Earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala said the rebels would have to be included in the interim government which began work this week.

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets across Nepal last month to demand an end to King Gyanendra's autocratic rule after he seized direct powers in February 2005.

Attitudes towards the monarchy have hardened recently in Nepal. Protests were initially against King Gyanendra but there have been growing calls for an end to the monarchy itself.


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