May 29, 2006

Nepal army, rebels trade blame on peace violations

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal's army and Maoist rebels have
accused each other of violating a code of conduct agreed last
week which commits both sides to cease provocations and stop
intimidating people with arms.

In their first peace talks since 2003, the Maoists and the
new multi-party government agreed to the code which also
committed both sides to stop recruitment. The rebels also
pledged not to force people to pay donations.

"The Maoists are ignoring the code of conduct and continue
kidnapping civilians, (indulge in) forcible collection of funds
and recruitment," the army said in a statement late on Monday.

It said the rebels were carrying out recruitment and
training in the western district of Nawalparasi and had
kidnapped a businessman in Lamjung in west Nepal.

On Tuesday, chief rebel negotiator Krishna Bahadur Mahara
denied the guerrillas were forcing people to pay and said army
patrols and searches continued despite the code.

"The government is seriously violating the code," Mahara
told Reuters.

Mahara also said a local Maoist leader was killed in the
western district of Bardiya by vigilante groups which were set
up by the royalist government of the king to fight the rebels.

Last week, the government and Maoists began peace talks
following weeks of violent street protests in April that forced
King Gyanendra to end his absolute rule and hand back power to
political parties.

A ceasefire was agreed earlier this month.

Nepal's new government has agreed to hold elections for a
special assembly to draft a new constitution and decide the
future of the monarchy, a key rebel demand. Both sides are
preparing for the vote but no date has been fixed.

The insurgency has claimed more than 13,000 lives and
wrecked the economy of the impoverished Himalayan country.
Previous peace talks failed in 2001 and 2003.