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Nepal moves towards peace

Tourism has been hit by the rebellion in Nepal  

KATHMANDU, Nepal -- The path to peace for the troubled Himalayan kingdom of Nepal appeared closer to fruition as the government and Maoist rebels pledged to seek and end to a rebellion that has claimed more than 1,800 lives.

The move by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) last week to drop demands for a republic, after the earlier rejection of their calls for the abolition of the constitutional monarchy, saw the resumption of the peace talks that had stalled in September.

Both sides have now said the peace talks would continue, but no dates were agreed upon.

The bloody conflict has slowed development projects, sapped business confidence and racked tourism, a mainstay of the impoverished economy.

"The government has taken the Maoists' decision not to raise the demand for a republic positively. This will help make the peace talks successful," chief government negotiator Chiranjivi Wagle told reporters after the meeting at a luxury resort on the outskirts of the capital, Kathmandu.

'Meaningless exercise'

But the Maoist team leader Krishna Bahadur Mahara demanded a constituent assembly to prepare a new constitution.

"We have raised the demand for a constituent assembly," Mahara said. The government has refused this as well.

"After the demand for a republic has been dropped, the constituent assembly will not be productive. It will only be a meaningless exercise," Wagle said.

Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba came to power in July on a platform of peace with Maoists, after the rebels had stepped up attacks on remote police posts following the June massacre of most members of the royal family, including popular King Birendra.

It was unclear whether the rebels, who model themselves after Peru's Shining Path guerrillas, were ready to accept a continuation of the constitutional monarchy established in 1990.

Both sides agreed to a truce in July to start the peace process and have exchanged several prisoners as a run-up to the talks.


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