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Nepalese Political Elements Agree on Elections


The political parties in Nepal's fragile governing coalition and the former rebel Maoists have tentatively agreed to hold elections by mid-April. The polling has twice been delayed by the Maoists demands for reform of the electoral system and the immediate abolition of the monarchy. VOA's Steve Herman reports from our South Asia bureau in New Delhi.

Negotiations among Nepal's political parties, including the Maoists, were under way Sunday to reach consensus on a precise date for a national election.

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala says the parties agreed the previous day that the elections for a national assembly to write a new constitution would be held by mid-April. In a speech to regional students in Kathmandu, the prime minister said the remaining obstacles to elections would be resolved as soon as possible.

The spokesman for the United Nations Mission in Nepal, Kieran Dwyer, says after two delays during the past year, this latest announcement gives cause for renewed optimism that Nepal is getting back on track.

"The decisions between the seven-party alliance yesterday is certainly a significant sign of progress in the peace process here," he said. "The parties have been in intense discussions for the last several weeks and it appears that they now do agree on a constituent assembly election before mid-April.

The communist rebels, who fought a decade-long civil war against the monarchy have showed no signs of dropping their demand to immediately abolish the Nepalese throne.

U.N. spokesman Dwyer says this is one of several major sticking points in the ongoing talks between the six parties in government and the Maoists.

"There are certain issues in relation to the wording around the republican matter and exactly how that would be framed and when decisions would be finalized in the formed constituent assembly," he said. "There's some difference of opinion there. Secondly, there seems to be a further discussion as to whether the Maoists would be [invited] into the government and under what conditions."

The Maoists also want all legislators for the constituent assembly selected through a proportional representation system.

Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, known as Prachanda, was quoted by Nepalese media as saying on Sunday that his group remains adamant on that position, despite reports of a compromise with the six other parties a day earlier.

A peace agreement was signed a year ago between the government and the communists. The former rebels came into the interim government for five months. They left in September contending promises made to them for equal representation in the peace process had not been met.

More than 30,000 soldiers of Nepal's Peoples' Liberation Army are in U.N.-supervised camps across the country. The Maoists' weapons and ammunition are all supposed to be in locked containers at seven of the camps with the keys held by the U.N. Mission in Nepal.

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