U.N. welcomes agreement between Nepal's top political parties and communist rebels

The United Nations has welcomed an agreement between Nepal's top political parties and communist rebels intended to force King Gyanendra to restore democracy and to end a civil war that has killed about 12,000 people. Secretary-General Kofi Annan also urged the king, who seized absolute power in February with the stated aim of quelling the communist insurgency, to match a unilateral cease-fire declared by the rebels in September, according to a statement issued late Wednesday in New York.

Annan strongly encouraged the rebels to extend their cease-fire and to fulfill their commitment to respecting human rights, the statement said.

Since the rebels announced a three-month cease-fire, they have stopped major attacks and held talks with the political parties. However, there has been smaller skirmishes with the government troops and the rebels continue to kidnap people for indoctrination and then release them despite the cease-fire.

The king's administration has refused to negotiate with the rebels until they lay down their arms.

Under the 12-point agreement between the rebels and the parties, the two sides would work separately to force the monarch to restore democracy in this Himalayan nation. Rebel violence in Nepal has escalated since Gyanendra seized control of the government. 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, reports the AP. I.L.

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