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Nepal's Maoists Extend Cease-Fire


In Nepal, Maoist rebels have extended a ceasefire as they pursue peace talks with the government. A United Nations team also is in the country to discuss how they can assist in the effort to end a decade-long communist insurgency.

The Maoist rebels said Friday they are renewing the truce by three months because they remain committed to a peace process that began in April.

The announcement was widely expected in Nepal. Last month, the rebels agreed to join an interim administration, raising hopes they will end an insurgency that has killed more than 12,000 people over a decade. However, the establishment of the interim administration has been held up because the rebels and the government differed over decommissioning the Maoists' weapons.

The arrival of a seven-member United Nations team in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, is expected to help iron out these differences.

The U.N. team is exploring how it can help the peace process.

The editor of the weekly Samay magazine in Kathmandu, Yuvraj Ghimire, says the U.N. is expected to be very involved in monitoring weapons held both by the rebels and the government before the country holds elections next April.

"It [the visit] is basically on the request of the government of Nepal and Maoists," said Ghimire. "They have come here [to] assist in management of arms of the rebels, and also ensure that the Nepal army remains within the barrack, so that elections to the proposed constituent assembly is free and fair."

The Maoist insurgency flared in 1996. But last month, the government agreed to a rebel demand to write a new constitution for the country, paving the way for an end to the rebellion.

The rebels have refused to disarm, but say they are willing to place their weapons and cadres under U.N. supervision. However, they are demanding similar U.N. monitoring for government forces.

The U.N. team has held preliminary discussions with the rebels, and also is meeting senior army and government officials.

After meeting with U.N. officials in a Kathmandu hotel on Friday, Maoist leader Prachanda (Pushpa Kumar Dahal) appeared optimistic. He said the meeting "was a very important one for ensuring peace."

The U.N. delegation includes experts on political affairs, and military and police matters.