- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 27, 2003

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Nepal’s rebels called off a seven-month cease-fire yesterday and said they would withdraw from peace talks, prompting the government to put its forces on high alert.

The last time the rebels withdrew from peace talks, in 2001, they began attacking police stations and army bases. The Maoist insurgency has lasted seven years.

The rebels want a specially elected assembly to draft a new constitution and decide if Nepal’s king should continue as constitutional monarch — or if the country should be turned into a communist state.

The government says it will not compromise or negotiate Nepal’s multiparty democracy or constitutional monarchy, but is ready to make concessions on other issues.

Since declaring the cease-fire in January, the rebels and government have held three rounds of peace talks. The last one, held last week, ended in deadlock.

The guerrillas rejected a government proposal for an interim administration that would include rebel-force members, calling the idea disappointing.

“Since the government has ended the possibility of resolving the conflict through peace talks and cease-fire, we are declaring the end of the cease-fire … and peace negotiations with the government,” the rebels’ leader, known as Prachanda, said in a statement.

Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa called an emergency meeting of his Cabinet. Information Minister Kamal Thapa said the government was still hopeful the conflict could be resolved peacefully.

“We are urging the rebels to reconsider their decision and join peace negotiations,” Mr. Thapa said.

But the government also placed soldiers and police on high alert, fearing attacks.

Prachanda, whose real name is Pushpa Kamal Dahal, claimed the army had continued to kill rebel supporters despite the cease-fire agreement.

The insurgents, who say they are inspired by Chinese Communist revolutionary leader Mao Tse-tung, began fighting in 1996 to abolish Nepal’s constitutional monarchy.

More than 7,000 people have been killed since.

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