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Former Rebels Maintain Lead in Nepal Vote Count


Election officials in Nepal say the country's former rebels have won well over half of the declared seats in a new 601-seat assembly that will rewrite the constitution.

Officials said Tuesday the Maoist Communist Party of Nepal has won at least 113 seats of about 200 declared so far from Thursday's elections. A full vote count from all 240 constituencies is expected to take weeks.

The Maoists' nearest rival has won no more than 32. The Communist Party of Nepal-UML has won even fewer.

The U.S. has listed the Maoists as a terrorist organization. But the State Department has congratulated the people of Nepal on their historic election, and has urged calm and respect for the democratic process in the weeks ahead.

The leader of the UML conceded defeat Sunday and resigned as party secretary-general.

The elections are part of a 2006 peace deal between the Nepalese government and the Maoists, who agreed to give up their 10-year insurgency aimed at abolishing the nearly two-and-a-half century monarchy and establishing a communist state. The violent campaign left 13,000 people dead.

Nepal's unpopular King Gyanendra stands to lose his throne once the assembly is formed.

Of the 601 seats in the constitutional assembly, 240 are being filled by direct election and another 335 by proportional representation from the entire vote. The remaining 26 seats will be nominated by the Cabinet.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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