Kathmandu, Oct. 25 (Reuters): Maoist rebels fighting to topple Nepal’s constitutional monarchy said today they were ready for peace talks to end an increasingly deadly insurgency that has racked the Himalayan kingdom for six years.
“Our door for talks and dialogue is open for a positive and progressive political solution,” Maoist leader Prachanda said in a statement.
It came after new caretaker Prime Minister Lokendra Bahadur Chand said he wanted to restart peace talks with the rebels, who want to install a communist republic in the impoverished nation.
Chand was named Prime Minister early this month after King Gyanendra fired Sher Bahadur Deuba from the post for seeking to delay national elections slated for November because of a rebel threat to derail the vote.
Last year, the rebels broke a truce and walked out of peace talks after Deuba rejected their demand for abolition of the monarchy, a hugely popular institution in the world’s only Hindu kingdom.
Prachanda said the talks should focus on electing an Assembly to prepare a new constitution. The rebel leader demanded the government halt its crackdown on the guerrillas or face continued violence.
“There is no alternative to a decisive and historic struggle if the suppression continues,” he said.
Last November’s breakdown of talks prompted the government to declare emergency rule giving sweeping powers to soldiers to try to stamp out the guerrillas. The state of emergency expired in August but the crackdown on the rebels has continued.
The political parties in Nepal’s dissolved parliament today called on King Gyanendra to get rid of the government he appointed after he sacked the elected Premier.
The rebels, inspired by the revolutionary ideas of the late Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong, have been fighting since early 1996 and the conflict has claimed over 5,100 lives, mostly rebels.
The insurgency has deepened the troubles of Nepal’s economy, deterring investment and scaring away tourists from the scenic nation, home to Mount Everest and the birthplace of Lord Buddha.