- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003

KATMANDU, Nepal (Agence France-Presse) — Prime Minister Lokendra Bahadur Chand said this week the government will not put forward an agenda for peace negotiations with Maoist rebels, but is ready to listen to their proposals, according to talks facilitators.Four facilitators to the talks met for the first time with Mr. Chand on Thursday at his office to discuss the peace process, the sources said.The facilitators — human rights activist Padma Ratna Tuladhar and lawyer Daman Nath Dhungana, who were nominated by the Maoists, and former Foreign Minister Shailendra Kumar Upadhyaya and ex-Chief Secretary Karna Dhoj Adhikari, nominated by the government — were appointed at the first round of talks last Sunday.”The prime minister said there would not be any agenda from the government side, but it will only study the Maoist proposals and listen to them,” said one of the facilitators, who did not want to be named.He also said that Mr. Chand said the government would rather see the country’s constitution revised than have a constituent assembly.One of the Maoists’ main demands is a constituent assembly, representing every district and ethnic group in Nepal, to draft a new constitution.A facilitator said role of the facilitators in the talks would be “impartial and independent.”“We will try our best to remove hurdles, if any are created during the peace dialogue,” he said.The Maoists and the government declared a cease-fire on Jan. 29 and said they were willing to hold talks to end seven years of insurgency that have cost more than 7,800 lives. The talks were delayed, but finally got off the ground on Sunday. A date for a second round of negotiations has not been fixed.

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