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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 March 2007, 07:22 GMT
Nepal Maoists 'not confined yet'
By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Kathmandu

Nepal's Maoists
The question of Maoist weapons has become contentious
The leader of Nepal's former Maoist rebels says they still have thousands of combatants not confined in camps and weapons not stored away in containers.

The remarks by Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who still uses his war name, Prachanda, appear to fly in the face of the registration and confinement process.

The first stage of the process, being supervised by the United Nations, began in January and has just been completed

Concern over public displays of weapons by the Maoists has risen recently.

Under November's peace agreement, the Maoists' army moved into 28 camps around Nepal.

Mismatched figures

Over a six-week period from mid-January, the Maoists locked up their weapons overseen by United Nations arms experts from many countries.

The government and the Nepalese army, however, expressed scepticism when the UN announced the figures - it said there were more than 31,000 Maoist combatants but only one-ninth that number of weapons.

Mr Prachanda has threatened to launch protests

Indeed, armed Maoists continued to appear at public gatherings afterwards and one of their newly-appointed MPs caused outrage by entering parliament with a gun.

The Maoist leader himself has now bolstered the sceptics' view.

Speaking in western Nepal, Prachanda said thousands of combatants and weapons remained unconfined and unregistered because they "couldn't meet UN standards".

He said the Maoists had plenty of people capable of launching multi-pronged military attacks, although he said they did not intend to derail the peace process.

Prime Minister GP Koirala says the Maoists cannot join an interim government until all their fighters and weapons are registered.

Mr Prachanda has said that if the Maoists are not admitted into government this week, they will launch a programme of protests.

Since emerging from hiding last June, the Maoist leader has attracted huge interest and become a ubiquitous face on posters around the country.

But his recent remarks have been erratic.

Earlier he said relatively few weapons had been registered because many had been swept away by rivers or burnt.

In recent days he has accused the royal family of conspiring to assassinate top US officials.

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