Maoists to join Nepal's interim government alliance

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The Independent Online

Nepal's Maoist rebels have agreed to join an interim government within one month after unprecedented talks with the Prime Minister aimed at ending the kingdom's civil war.

The reclusive Maoist leader, Prachanda, was flown into Kathmandu by helicopter to meet Girja Prasad Koirala, the elderly politician who emerged from April's anti-monarchy protests to lead the country.

"This is a historic decision and will move the country in a new direction," Prachanda said after meeting the premier and leaders of all seven political parties in the ruling alliance. The interim government, which will eventually create a new permanent constitution, will replace the current national parliament as well as the Maoists' "people's government," which rules over the territory they control.

It is believed to be the first time Prachanda has set foot in Kathmandu since setting off a civil war in 1996 that has left 13,000 people dead and wrecked Nepal's economy. The Home Minister, Krishna Sitaula, flew to an undisclosed location by helicopter to pick Prachanda up and bring him to the capital.

He was taken to the official residence of Mr Koirala, where talks went on for seven hours. Maoists stood guard outside alongside security forces, and ordered photographers not to take pictures of their leader.

The talks came at a pivotal moment for Nepal. King Gyanendra has been forced to give up power but the Maoists, who retain control of huge areas of the countryside, remain a major threat to stability.

The defeat of Gyanendra, who vowed not to negotiate with the rebels, has opened a rare window of opportunity for dialogue with the Maoists. It was an agreement on a framework for peace talks that galvanised support for the new seven-party ruling alliance against the King. The Maoists want to see the monarchy abolished.

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