Nepal's former rebel Maoists have opened their party's first convention in the six years following the end of a bloody civil war.
Three-thousand delegates of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal gathered Saturday in the town of Hetauda for the party's first general convention in 21 years. More than 100,000 supporters of the party were also in Hetauda for the start of the six-day convention.
Party chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, long known as Prachanda, called in his opening address for unity among party members. Nepal's Maoist leader, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, also addressed the crowd.
The convention began a few days after Mr. Bhattarai promised that new elections would take place in May.
The delayed elections are raising hopes for an end to a political stalemate that has crippled the Himalayan republic.
Nepal's parliament was dissolved last May after parties failed to agree on drafting a new constitution.
Opposition parties have since demanded Mr. Bhattarai's resignation and the formation of a unity government to oversee elections.
The Maoists waged an armed struggle against Nepal's monarchy. They joined the political mainstream in 2006 after the end of a decade-long civil war that killed more than 16,000 people. They won elections two years later and are now leading a coalition government in Nepal.