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Nepal, rebels sign peace accord

From Manesh Shrestha
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KATHMANDU, Nepal (CNN) -- Nepal's government and Maoist rebels have signed a peace accord, ending 10 years of fighting and beginning what is hoped to be an era of peaceful politics in the Himalayan kingdom.

In a ceremony, Nepali Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and Maoist leader Prachanda signed the agreement on Tuesday, which brings the rebels into peaceful multiparty democratic politics.

"The politics of violence has ended and a politics of reconciliation has begun," Koirala said after the signing.

Last week, the Maoists agreed to intern their combatants and store their arms in camps monitored by the United Nations.

Nepal's Maoist rebels have been fighting an armed rebellion for 10 years to replace the monarchy with a republic. More than 13,000 people have been killed in the fighting.

According to the agreement, any use of guns by the rebels will be punished.

The democratic government and the Maoists have agreed to hold elections in June 2007 for constituent assembly that will decide the fate of the monarchy.

"This is a historic occasion and victory of all Nepali people," Chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal Prachanda said at the signing ceremony, witnessed by political leaders, diplomats, bureaucrats and the media.

"A continuity of violence has ended and another continuity of peace has begun," Koirala said.

"As a democrat it was my duty to bring non-democrats into the democratic mainstream. That effort is moving ahead towards success.

"The peace agreement is an example for the whole world since it is a Nepali effort without outside help," he added.

The challenge Nepal now faces is holding constituent assembly elections in a peaceful manner.

Meanwhile, Maoist combatants continued to arrive in seven camps across the country Tuesday, albeit without United Nations monitoring.

A tripartite agreement between the government, Maoists and the U.N. has to be signed before the U.N. can be given a mandate to monitor arms and combatants.

"I hope that we will quickly be able to reach tripatriate agreement on the full modalities for the management of arms and armies clarifying essential detail," said Ian Martin, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General in Nepal.

The Maoists will now join an interim parliament and an interim government, as early as next week, following the agreement.


Maoist rebel fighters march toward camp site in Shurkhet, Nepal.



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