| Maoist chief Prachanda in Kathmandu on Friday. (AFP)
Kathmandu, June 16 (Reuters): Nepal’s Maoist rebel leader held ground-breaking talks today with the government, which agreed to dissolve parliament and set up an interim administration to include the rebels.
Rebel chief Prachanda said after nearly 10 hours of talks with Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and political party leaders that an interim constitution will be prepared within three weeks and later a new interim government will be formed.
“I am proud ... because the decision we have taken is a historic one,” he said.
Maoists also promised to dissolve their parallel governments around the countryside.
Prachanda was speaking at a news conference flanked by leaders of some of Nepal’s main political parties. Both sides said they hoped the interim government would be established within a month.
“This consensus can play a very significant role in solving the country’s problems,” said home minister and chief government negotiator Krishna Prasad Sitaula.
The interim government will oversee landmark elections for a special assembly meant to draft a new constitution and review the role of the monarchy. Prachanda said those elections were likely to be held in March or April of next year.
The reclusive rebel leader, who flew to the capital in a private helicopter from western Nepal, was making his first public appearance in Kathmandu since the revolt began.
Assisted by their negotiators, the leaders talked for two hours before the heads of Nepal’s six other main political parties joined them at the prime minister’s official residence.
Nepal’s peace process burst into life after King Gyanendra surrendered power and reinstated parliament in April following weeks of street protests.
Since then, Koirala’s multi-party government has agreed to a ceasefire with the rebels, stripped the king of almost all of his powers and conceded to the Maoist demand for elections to draft a new constitution.
But the question of disarmament and demobilisation of the rebels remains a potential sticking point, diplomats say.
In a rare interview with Reuters in western Nepal yesterday, Prachanda said the rebels were unwilling to surrender their weapons ahead of the elections, and instead suggested their army ' as well as the government’s ' should be confined to barracks or camps during the vote.
Political leaders and diplomats are wary, arguing that elections cannot be held in the shadow of Maoist arms.
It was not clear if the two sides had narrowed their differences on this issue after today’s talks. “To conduct the elections to a constituent assembly without any fear, both sides agreed to request the UN to help manage the weapons and monitor them,” they said.
The Maoist insurgency has killed at least 13,000 people and has badly hurt the aid and tourism-dependent economy of the Himalayan nation.