Nepal, Maoist cease-fire on shaky ground
By Suman Pradhan
KATHMANDU, Nepal (CNN) -- The four-month old cease-fire between Nepal's government and Maoist rebels has been put in doubt as a rebel leader Wednesday declared on-going peace negotiations with the government are "fruitless".
The statement is being seen here by the government as the Maoists' unilateral move to break off peace negotiations.
Top rebel commander Pushpa Kamal Dahal, known as "Comrade Prachanda" issued a statement late Wednesday blasting the government's refusal to accede to one of the Maoists' key demand: the formation of a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution.
The rebels put forth the position early this month after agreeing not to raise the demand for a republican state during peace talks with the government.
"Since our demand for a constituent assembly has been ignored by the government, we have ascertained that the peace negotiations with it is fruitless," Prachanda said.
He also struck an ominous note, saying the latest developments also "makes the cease-fire meaningless."
Nepal's Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, who struck a cease-fire deal with the rebels in late July, was stunned by Prachanda's unilateral announcement.
He told CNN, "I am stunned, shocked by this unilateral decision by Prachanda to pull out of the talks."
The prime minister added that the government "is very flexible. We want to take everybody along with us towards a common goal. I urge the Maoists not to break off the talks, and to sit down for further negotiations."
Prachanda did not explicitly say that his group is breaking off talks with the government.
But his use of terms such as "fruitless" and "meaningless" to describe the talks and the cease-fire are being taken here by the government as a sign that the rebels are breaking off peace negotiations.
Since the cease-fire was struck by Deuba and Prachanda in late July, there has been relative peace and calm in this Himalayan kingdom.
So far, since the rebels first launched their violent campaign for a republican state in early 1996, more than 1,800 people have died in the insurgency.
After a particularly bloody period in June and July this year, Deuba succeeded in striking a cease-fire deal with Prachanda, and bring the rebels to the negotiating table.
Three rounds of talks has already been held, but apparently without much progress.
Since the rebels refrained from raising their demand for a republican state during peace negotiations, they have been arguing for elections to form a constituent assembly, which the government has rejected.
Prachanda has repeatedly said that republicanism, however, still remained the ultimate goal.
Nepal moves towards peace
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Nepal government, rebels to hold peace talks
August 30, 2001
Nepal set for talks with Maoists
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