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Nepal's Maoist Rebels, Government Agree to Cease-Fire - 2003-01-29

The latest cease-fire and the decision to enter a dialogue after a breakdown in talks triggered one of the most violent phases in the seven year rebellion

In Nepal, the government and Maoist rebels have agreed to a cease-fire. The government says peace talks will begin shortly. The Maoist rebellion has been raging in the mountain kingdom since 1996.

The decision to cease offensive action was first announced by Maoist-rebel leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal in a statement faxed to news organizations. Soon after, the government said it would match the truce declared by the guerrillas.

A government statement also said peace talks with rebels would begin in a couple of days. Minister for Information Ramesh Nath Pandey said differences between the two sides must be resolved through talks, instead of violence.

The latest cease-fire and the decision to enter a dialogue comes 14 months after an earlier round of peace talks between the government and the Maoists broke down, triggering one of the most violent phases in the seven-year rebellion.

Just days ago, the Maoists were blamed for killing Nepal's Armed Police Force chief, the most senior official to be targeted.

The rebels have been fighting to topple the country's constitutional monarchy and establish a communist republic. More than 7,000 people have been killed in insurgency-related violence.

Violence was reported just hours before the Maoists announced the cease-fire. The Defense Ministry said at least 13 Maoist rebels and three soldiers were killed in a clash in a remote village about 300 kilometers west of the capital, Kathmandu.

The rebels said they decided to enter peace talks after the government met three key conditions. The government has agreed not to refer to the Maoists as terrorists, to lift rewards offered for their arrest, and to withdraw international police warrants for rebel leaders.

The government and the rebels were reportedly in contact with each other in recent days.

The government says it hopes the dialogue will end the seven years of conflict in the country. The rebellion has devastated the country's economy, and destabilized the political situation.