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UN Remains Hopeful on Nepal Peace Deal Despite Delays by Maoists

Nepal's former Maoist rebels are refusing to allow United Nations officials to continue verifications called for in the agreement that brought peace to the Himalayan nation. But as Liam Cochrane reports from Kathmandu, the U.N. still hopes to be able to continue the verification process.

This is the third time the Maoists have postponed the verification process.

U.N. experts have been interviewing the more than 30,000 Nepalese the Maoists claim as genuine fighters, trying to make sure that none of the fighters is under the age of 18. They also want to weed out any who were recruited after the peace process began.

But when Maoist party leaders saw the results of interviews with the first three thousand fighters, they suspended the process, saying they wanted further discussions.

Ian Martin heads the U.N.'s Mission in Nepal, known as UNMIN. He said Monday that discussions are important, but they should not delay the verifications.

"I remind everyone that the Agreement on Monitoring the Management of Arms and Armies was negotiated between the Maoists and the then seven-party alliance government," Martin said. "It was they [the Maoists] who agreed upon the criteria which UNMIN has been asked to apply, and it is their responsibility now to enable us to do so in a spirit of cooperation."

Those criteria include the discharge of any child soldiers, and the discharge of anyone recruited after the peace process began. The children are to be reintegrated into their home communities with the help of the United Nations.

Martin told reporters that he met with the Maoist chairman, Prachanda, last Thursday, and expects to meet him again soon to discuss resuming the verification process.

Martin declined to say how many Maoists were disqualified after the first round of interviews, or when that information might be made public. He says that Maoist commanders are disputing some of the U.N.'s conclusions, and he says a limited number of cases may be reviewed.

"But it's not a matter of political negotiation or compromise, it's a matter of UNMIN … making the best judgment they can on the basis of two criteria which were negotiated and agreed between the parties," he said.

As part of the peace agreement, the Maoists agreed to keep their fighters in seven camps across the country. They also locked up almost 3,000 weapons, under U.N. supervision.

The verification process with the remaining 28,000 registered Maoists is supposed to be completed before elections are held in November.