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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 June 2006, 07:39 GMT 08:39 UK
Nepal Maoists 'will not disarm'
Maoist rebels
Maoist rebels will continue to bear arms
Maoist rebels in Nepal have said they will not lay down arms until elections are held for a body which will draw up a new constitution.

A rebel spokesman said they were ready to demobilise their fighters but would not disarm them at the moment.

His statement came a day after Nepal's home minister said the government would not share power with the rebels until they had given up their weapons.

Both sides clinched a landmark power-sharing deal last week.

Observers say both the government and rebels are committed to the peace process, but the issue of rebel arms could prove to be a major stumbling block.

'Management' of arms

As part of the agreement, the government said it would dissolve parliament and set up an interim government that would include the Maoists.

The interim government containing the Maoists will be formed only after the management of the rebels' arms
Krishna Prasad Sitaula
Home minister

However the BBC's Sushil Sharma in Kathmandu says there are concerns over the move to bring the rebels into an interim administration.

It was these concerns that led to Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula issuing a statement on the issue of disarmament.

"The formation of the interim government is not possible without settling the Maoists' arms issues," Mr Sitaula told journalists on Tuesday.

"The interim government containing the Maoist will be formed only after the management of the rebels' arms," he is quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.


Both sides have agreed to seek the assistance of the United Nations on the issue.

However a rebels spokesman, Krishna Bahadur Mahara, told the BBC that differences remain between the two sides on how to manage the weapons.

Victory rally in Nepal in April
Popular protests forced King Gyanendra to give up his direct rule

Our correspondent says the issue is a major sticking point between the two sides.

The government and the rebels began peace talks last month on resolving the decade-long Maoist insurgency that has left 13,000 people dead.

The peace process began after King Gyanendra agreed in April to abandon direct palace rule following weeks of street protests and strikes.

The king's opponents - who had been speaking to Maoist leader Prachanda while out of power - have since formed a transitional government.

The new government has released rebels from jail, dropped terrorism charges against them and agreed to the ceasefire.

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