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Maoists begin talks amid hope

Kathmandu, May 26: Three years after they broke off peace talks with the Nepal government, Maoist rebels returned to the negotiating table to hammer out a possible solution to the decade-old strife which has crippled the Himalayan nation.

The Maoist team, headed by their spokesman Krishna Bahadur Mahara, began talks with the government’s team, led by home minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula, at the picturesque Le Meridien Gokarna Golf Resort and Spa on the outskirts of Kathmandu this afternoon.

Earlier, Mahara and the other two members of the Maoist team, Dev Gurung and Dina Nath Sharma, called on Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala at his official residence and discussed modalities for the peace talks.

Before the talks began at 4 pm, both sides were optimistic that they would be able to resolve all outstanding issues during the next few days. “There is very little chance of the talks failing this time around,” Mahara said, adding that his team’s sole agenda was elections to the constituent assembly.

Sitaula also struck a positive note by saying that the talks would be successful. “Since our agenda is the same, there is no reason why the talks should fail.”

However, he refused to say whether the talks would focus only on the proposed election to the constituent assembly or on other relevant issues. “Let the talks begin. We cannot say anything now,”he added.

However, sources said that the first round would focus on the code of conduct for both sides during the negotiation phase and the procedures for the formal talks between Koirala and Maoist supremo Prachanda.

Other issues like the mandate of the reinstated House of Representatives and the 12-point agreement between the Seven-Party Alliance (SPA) and the Maoists are also likely to figure in the talks.

The first round of talks between former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s government and the Maoists was held in Kathmandu on August 30, 2001.

However, the Maoists broke the ceasefire on November 23, 2001, after the government rejected their demands .

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