WASHINGTON (CNN) -- State Department officials have met with Maoist rebels in Nepal, marking a dramatic policy shift for the United States which has long called the rebels terrorists.
Maoist leader Prachanda after a recent meeting with U.S. officials in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Evan Feigenbaum, deputy assistant secretary of state, who recently returned from Nepal, told reporters the United States has decided to work with the Maoists to help promote a stable, democratic country.
The U.S. has not removed the Maoist rebels from its international list of terrorism organizations. Feigenbaum indicated that will depend on how the Maoists handle their new responsibilities.
In a peace process that spanned the past two years, the Maoists have transformed themselves from insurgents to the dominant political force in Nepal's newly elected Constituent Assembly. The Assembly voted Wednesday to abolish the country's 239-year-old monarchy.
The removal of the king is a victory for the rebels, who fought a 10-year civil war to end the monarchy. More than 13,000 people died in the fighting. King Gyanendra came to power in 2001.
The United States still keeps its distance from other groups it considers terrorists.
U.S. officials have refused to meet with Hamas, which controls Gaza and made a powerful showing in the 2006 Palestinian elections, or with Hezbollah, which constitutes a powerful political and military force in Lebanon.
Feigenbaum said the United States reversed course because Maoists have tempered their views since abandoning the insurgency and entering the political process in 2006.
Feigenbaum and Nancy Powell, the U.S. ambassador to Nepal, met with the group's top leaders.
He said the American message to the Maoists "is the degree to which we can work with anyone in Nepal will depend, very directly, on the degree to which they continue to embrace the political process and abandon violence."
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