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Nepal's Government, Rebels Fail to Bridge Differences

Nepal's government and communist rebels have failed to bridge key differences during a week of peace talks. Both sides say they will persevere with efforts to reach an agreement to end a decade-long Maoist insurgency in the country.

A high profile meeting on Sunday between Nepalese Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and Maoist leader Prachanda (one name only) had raised hopes they would clinch a deal that would allow the rebels to join an interim administration.

But the meeting ended in just half an hour without the expected consensus emerging.

However, both the government and the rebels remain optimistic. They say they will meet again after "doing more homework" on two key issues that are blocking a deal: the disarming of the rebel army and the future of the monarchy. No date has yet been set for new talks.

Krishna Bahadur Mahara is the top Maoist negotiator and was involved in last week's talks.

Mahara says the struggle between the different perspectives and ideologies of both sides is a constructive one and is likely to lead to a positive conclusion.

Last week's talks have resulted in an agreement to hold elections by next June for a special assembly that will write a new constitution for the country, and decide whether the monarchy can stay.

Nepal's home minister, Krishna Sitoula, hopes that this will usher in a new chapter for the country.

Sitoula says that the special assembly will enable the people of the Nepal to solve their problems. He says it is a step toward democracy, permanent peace, progress and development.

But the elections for a special assembly can only go ahead if the government and the rebels find a solution to a key sticking point - the management of 35,000 rebels. The Maoists say they are prepared to keep their fighters in camps under United Nations supervision, but the government wants them to disarm.

The rebels have threatened to launch street protests if negotiations fail, but say they will uphold a truce in place since April when King Gyanendra ended more than a year of direct rule and handed back power to a multi-party government. The rebels and the government then signed a peace deal aimed at drawing the Maoists into the political process and ending their decade-long insurgency.