Vol. 4 Num 76 Mon. August 11, 2003  

Maoists seek decisive talks with Kathmandu

Nepal's Maoist rebels are seeking a conclusive round of peace talks with the government to end a seven-year-old revolt that has killed more than 7,200 people, the chief Maoist negotiator said.

Babu Ram Bhattarai, in a newspaper article published on Sunday, said the next meeting should take up the rebel demand for an interim government to oversee elections for an assembly that would write a new constitution to determine the role of the king.

"The third round of meeting must be decisive and should continue for a week or ten days to be able to arrive at a conclusion," Bhattarai said in an article published in Nepali daily Kantipur.

The Maoists, who want to replace Nepal's constitutional monarchy with a communist republic, last month agreed to resume talks after the government freed three top guerrillas. No date for the meeting has been fixed yet.

Bhattarai urged King Gyanendra, who ascended the throne after the 2001 palace massacre, to abdicate giving an "easy solution" to the conflict or give people a chance to decide on his role.

The revolt has wrecked the aid and tourist dependent economy of the scenic mountainous nation, home to eight of the world's 14 highest mountains and frequented by thousands of Western back packers, a key source of income.

The government says it will spell out its position on the rebel demand for a new constituent assembly in the talks.

The two sides held two rounds of talks in April and May, but the meeting stalled amid a row over a rebel demand to restrict the movement of government forces to within three miles of the barracks.

A cease-fire between the Royal Nepal Army and the Maoists has largely held since January.