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Nepal talks begin

Kathmandu, April 27 (Reuters): Nepal’s Maoist rebels began talks with the government today, their first in 17 months, in an effort to end the insurgency that has killed thousands and wrecked the Himalayan country.

The meeting, held in a hotel in the capital Kathmandu, has raised hopes for peace after seven years of fighting to topple the constitutional monarchy and establish communist rule. “Very hopeful,” government negotiator Narayan Singh Pun said when asked if he was optimistic, on arriving at the talks.

The Maoists, represented by a five-member team and headed by senior rebel leader Babu Ram Bhattarai, did not make any comments. The six-member government team is headed by deputy Prime Minister Badri Prasad Mandal.

It’s not clear how long these latest discussions will last but the conflict, that began in 1996, has claimed more than 7,200 lives as peace talks have failed in the past.

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