In Nepal, more than 25 soldiers and Maoist rebels have been killed in fierce clashes this week. Violence has surged despite calls by the government to restart peace talks to end the eight-year rebellion.

Nepalese officials say Maoist rebels opened fired on troops from surrounding hills as they were crossing a river in the remote western Salyan district on Tuesday. Ensuing gun battles killed about a dozen rebels and soldiers. It was the second attack blamed on the rebels this week. Monday 12 policemen died in a landmine blast in a southern district.

Nearly 10,000 people have died in the rebellion.

The latest violence comes as Nepal's newly appointed coalition government says its main goal is to open negotiations with the rebels and restore peace in the country. The Maoists want to turn Nepal's constitutional monarchy into a communist state. The rebels walked out of a ceasefire and peace talks last year, demanding the government agree to rewrite the constitution.

So far the rebels have rejected appeals for new negotiations by Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba. A political analyst with Kathmandu's Center for Contemporary Studies, Lok Raj Baral, says the rebels are wary of talking to a government that has been appointed by the king as it is not likely to consider abolishing the monarchy. "I don't know if there will be any major departure from the past because the government also is not so much capable of settling the issue," he says.

Nepal has been ruled by a pro-monarchy administration since 2002 when King Gyanendra dismissed a popularly elected government. But a month ago, he reappointed that prime minister, raising hopes of ending a political deadlock in the country and bringing Maoists back to the negotiating table.

Some of the country's major political parties have now joined the new government, giving Nepal its most broadly backed administration in two years.