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Nepal's Maoist Rebels Close Office in Kathmandu - 2003-07-21


Maoist rebels in Nepal have shut down their office in the capital, Kathmandu. The move has led to renewed concern over a stalled peace process that began earlier this year.

The rebels said they closed their Kathmandu office because they were under strict government surveillance.

The liaison office was established after the rebels signed a cease-fire with the government in January and started peace talks. It was their only office outside the areas they control in rural districts of Nepal.

The government last week formally asked the rebels to reopen the talks, which have been on hold since two sessions were held in May.

Political analysts say mutual mistrust is blocking progress towards ending the seven-year, extremely violent insurgency by the Maoists, who want to establish a communist republic in Nepal.

The rebels say they have not resumed talks because the government failed to restrict deployment of troops to within five-kilometers of their barracks, as promised at earlier talks. The Maoists have also complained of harassment by security forces.

But senior government officials say they are making efforts to allay rebel suspicions, and rebel negotiators have been assured full security if they resume the dialogue.

A political analyst at Nepal's Center for Contemporary Studies, Lok Raj Baral, said the rebels are also committed to peace talks, but want assurances that the government will stick to the promises it makes.

"They are not likely to leave the peace process. They think they will have to continue the peace talks. First of all they want to get assurance from the government that they are going to talk on certain issues to be raised by" the Maoists, Mr. Baral said.

Meanwhile, government officials reported a minor rebel attack Sunday on a police post in Southern Nepal - the first such attack since the January truce was called.

The Maoist rebellion erupted in 1996. It turned bloodier after the rebels walked out of an earlier round of peace talks in 2001. Government security posts in remote areas then became the prime targets.

The government has retaliated, at times killing civilians along with rebels. In all, more than 7,000 people have been killed in insurgency-related violence.