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Nepal Peace Talks Set For Sunday - 2003-08-16

Nepal's government and Maoist rebels will hold more peace talks Sunday on the heels of fresh fighting and rebel demands that soldiers be kept near their barracks.

The talks will be held in Nepalgunj on the Indian border, about 500 kilometers southwest of Kathmandu. Nepalgunj is the closest major town to areas in western Nepal under de facto rebel rule.

The two previous rounds of talks were held in Kathmandu, and moving the talks to a site near the rebel stronghold is seen as a government concession. The rebels want to replace Nepal's monarchy with a socialist state and say this round of talks should focus on political issues.

On Friday, government soldiers killed three rebels in a gunbattle at Khamlalung village in eastern Nepal. Soldiers then raided a nearby rebel base and seized weapons. The government says its side suffered no casualties.

The violence came despite a cease-fire in place since January. Rebels say the government broke its promise to keep soldiers in their barracks. Kathmandu denies any such commitment.

Meanwhile, at least 15 soldiers are dead after a massive landslide hit a military base Friday in the northern Nepal village of Ramche. Five soldiers are still missing. Recent monsoon rains in the mountainous region triggered the landslide.