July 18, 2006

Nepal rebels to extend truce, says top guerrilla

By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal's Maoist rebels are likely to
extend a ceasefire due to expire in a few days to support peace
talks aimed at ending an insurgency which has killed thousands,
a top guerrilla leader said on Tuesday.

The Maoists -- whose decade-long fight for a Communist
state, has left more than 13,000 dead -- declared a three month
truce in April after King Gyanendra bowed to weeks of protests,
handing over power to an interim multi-party government.

With peace talks between the interim government and
insurgents in progress, Maoist leaders say they hope to renew
the truce which ends next weekend.

"Since the peace process is moving ahead positively I think
the ceasefire will be extended," Ananta, a deputy commander of
the Maoist army, told Reuters.

He said Maoist chief Prachanda would meet Prime Minister
Girija Prasad Koirala on Friday to discuss the controversial
issue of monitoring arms held by the Maoists and Nepal's army.
The rebels have said they will not surrender their arms.

The government this month called on the United Nations to
monitor weapons held by both sides, but Ananta said the
36,000-strong rebels should merge with government troops under
a new constitution to be prepared by a specially elected

"Until then our PLA will stay in the camps with their
arms," Ananta said.

Last month, Koirala agreed to include the rebels in an
interim government to oversee elections for the special
assembly to map the country's future political set up, a key
rebel demand to end the revolt.

Impoverished Nepal, wedged between China and India, should
be turned into a republic -- a federation with nine autonomous
regions representing the oppressed classes, nationalities and
genders, Ananta said.

"Defense, foreign and monetary matters will be controlled
by the central government."