Nepal's royal government reviews deal between Maoist rebels

Nepal's monarchist government is reviewing an agreement between communist rebels and seven major political parties intended to force King Gyanendra to restore democracy, the home minister said Wednesday. The Maoist rebels and the political alliance issued a statement Tuesday announcing they have reached a crucial understanding to intensify movement against the king, who seized absolute power in February.

"We are reviewing the agreement in detail. We will be consulting it with our Cabinet colleagues before issuing any statement or comment," said Home Minister Dan Bahadur Shahi.

The rebels and parties announced their deal as the king toured Africa, from where he was expected to return early next month. The 12-point agreement did not explain how the rebels and parties planned to step up their campaign against the government. But the political parties made it clear they do not support the communist rebels' violent campaign and that the agreement does not constitute an alliance.

"This is only an understanding we have reached with the Maoists. We are not forming any alliance or coalition with them. We will be fighting the monarchy from separate fronts," Girija Prasad Koirala, president of Nepali Congress, the largest political party in Nepal, said Tuesday.

The rebels, who claim to be inspired by Chinese communist revolutionary Mao Zedong, have been fighting since 1996 in an attempt to topple Nepal's monarchy.

Top political leaders including Koirala flew to New Delhi last week, apparently to meet rebel leaders, but announced the agreement only on Tuesday.

"It is our clear understanding that unless the autocratic rule is ended and full democracy is restored, there will be no peace or progress in the country," the agreement said.

Under the agreement, the two sides would reinstate a parliament, form a government, and conduct elections to establish a special assembly that would draft a new constitution, a condition long set by the rebels.

The rebels also said they will end their insurgency, which has killed about 12,000 people, and give up their arms under international supervision if an election for a special assembly is held, reports the AP. I.L.

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