06/16/2006, 00.00
NEPAL

First agreement between government and Maoist leaders

by Prakash Dubey

Both sides agree to a timetable for talks that will decide elections to the Constituent Assembly. UN observers will be admitted.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – The new Nepalese government and leaders of the Maoist insurgency have reached their first agreement after Prime Minister Girja Prasad Koirala met rebel leader Prachanda. The two men plus Prachanda's deputy Baburam Bhattarai met at the Koirala's residence, initially for informal talks, then at 11 am local time, they were joined in a formal meeting by the top leaders of the governing seven-party coalition and the Maoist party.

The parties reached a four-point agreement that includes a timetable for talks between their leaders and the formation of an UN-backed truce monitoring team.
According to Dinanath Sharma, a member of the Maoist delegation, talks would be, in principle, focused on finalising the parameters of the interim government that would conduct the election for the Constituent Assembly which would eventually draft a new constitution capable of ensuring stability and democracy.

"Every Nepalese citizen has high hopes that talks will usher in peace and bring to an end the violence of the past decade," said Ram Ekbal Choudhary, a political analyst and human rights activist.

"We can't even think of the talks failing and both sides are well aware of this. They know it is time to work for peace, and I am optimistic about the meetings' success".

Just two days ago, Choudhary explains, some feared that relations between government and Maoists might break down when Prime Minister Koirala said he favoured a constitutional monarchy. Krishna Bahadur Mahara, who heads the Maoist peace negotiating team, responded saying he disagreed with the prime minister, adding though that his party was prepared to leave the fate of the monarchy in the hands of the people during the election to the Constituent Assembly.

"The Prime Minister was right not to pay too much attention to the issue," social activist Ritu Pathak told AsiaNews. "All he did was to assert his party's support for a constitutional monarchy. Maoists disagree but the contradiction is not such that it would hamper the march towards democracy."

"People still have doubts about the Maoists because of their past violence, but right now the latter are interpreting well the spirit of democracy".

Sidhartha Karki, from the Pentecostal fraternity's Good Hope Church, told AsiaNews that in the country's 3,000 Christian communities, people are praying for the talks' success.

"Koirala and Prachanda are turning Nepal into a secular state. The talks' failure would mean an end to the journey towards democracy and this would pave the way for sectarian forces that would be able to reorganise and try to get back into power."

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