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Last Updated: Monday, 15 January 2007, 22:05 GMT
Nepalese Maoists enter parliament
Maoist rebel leader Prachanda, left, and his deputy Baburam Bhattarai arrive at parliament
The rebels are joining mainstream politics for the first time
Former Maoist rebels have taken their seats in an interim parliament in Nepal under a deal ending 10 years of war.

Top Maoist leaders watched from the public gallery as 83 Maoist MPs took the oath in the 330-seat assembly.

Earlier, the house unanimously backed a new interim constitution, paving the way for the rebels to enter parliament.

The historic move is one of a series of measures to bring the Maoists into the fold after last year's peace deal. The 10-year insurgency cost 13,000 lives.

The United Nations will begin monitoring Maoist troops and weapons on Tuesday, which has been declared a public holiday to mark the introduction of the interim constitution.

Steps to peace

Until nine months ago the Maoists were still an underground, outlawed group but they will now have a share of power in the Himalayan kingdom.

Today is a day of reconciliation among all the political parties and the people
Prime Minister GP Koirala

Under the interim constitution, a draft of which the former rebels and the governing seven-party alliance signed last week - the Maoists have about a quarter of parliament's 330 seats.

Among other things the temporary constitution transfers executive powers of head of state from the king to the prime minister.

The approval of the charter automatically dissolved the old two-chambered parliament and set up a new unicameral one, including the Maoists.

"Today is a day of reconciliation among all the political parties and the people," Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala told parliament.

Women Maoist fighters - file photo
The Maoists fought a 10-year guerrilla war

The Maoists' share of nominated MPs includes a large number of women and members of marginalised social groups along with civil society activists.

It also includes a retired major general of the Nepalese army who has voiced republican sentiments.

Joining a new interim government, probably in February, will be the Maoists' next step.

The interim government will hold elections by June to a constituent assembly which will decide whether to scrap the monarchy or not.

King Gyanendra was forced to give up direct rule last year after mass protests and has since been stripped of powers. He does not have even a ceremonial role in the interim constitution.

UN involvement

Meanwhile, the United Nations is stepping up its role in Nepal's peace process.

On Tuesday it is to start monitoring the confinement of the Maoists' weapons in designated camps and registering their combatants in the same places.

In the past few days the UN secretary general has recommended a fully-fledged UN mission in Nepal to help more broadly with the transition to permanent peace.

A draft resolution on this is being prepared for endorsement by the Security Council.

Maoist rebels join mainstream politics

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