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Last Updated: Friday, 11 January 2008, 11:51 GMT
Nepal sets new date for elections
Maoist rally in Nepal
Elections were delayed after Maoists quit the government
Nepal's government has set 10 April as the date for delayed elections to decide the country's future.

The cabinet announcement came after talks between the leaders of the three main parties, which include former Maoist rebels.

The poll was postponed twice last year amid disagreements between the parties.

Voters are to elect an assembly which will write a new constitution for Nepal that formally confirms the country as a republic after centuries of royal rule.

The elections are a key element of a peace deal signed in 2006 that ended 10 years of Maoist insurgency.

Row over king

The former rebels joined an interim government after the peace agreement, but left it last September, throwing the peace process into doubt.

Nepal's King Gyanendra
King Gyanendra's future is the centre of debate

Elections were to have been held first in June, then in November but were delayed due to wrangling over when Nepal will become a republic.

Maoist leaders have demanded the immediate abolition of the monarchy, while others in government have argued the constituent assembly should settle the issue following elections.

In December all of Nepal's main parties agreed the monarchy would be abolished - but only after the elections. That was enough to persuade the Maoists to rejoin the government.

The decision must still be ratified by the 601-member assembly to be elected in April, but correspondents say scrapping the royal system is a foregone conclusion.

The vote will be the first Nepal has held for nearly nine years.

Ministers said the decision was reached by the cabinet on Friday.

"The election will be held in a single phase on 10 April," Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula said after the meeting.

Political crisis

The monarchy's popularity has sunk since the death of the well-loved King Birendra in a notorious palace massacre of 2001.

Efforts by his brother, Gyanendra, to tackle the Maoist insurgency led to a worsening of the country's human rights situation.

Analysts say the king lost popular support after his decision in 2005 to sack the government and assume absolute power - only to back down after huge protests.

The Maoists called a ceasefire after the king ended his controversial direct rule in April 2006 and restored parliament.

The latest political crisis came amid a rise in ethnic and religious tension, as regional groups strove to assert their authority in advance of the elections.

More than 13,000 people died during Nepal's decade-long insurgency, many of them civilians caught in cross-fire between the Maoists and the security forces.

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