Kathmandu, Dec. 4 (Reuters): Maoist rebels in Nepal have appealed for talks with authorities to end a six-year insurgency, vowing to stop attacks on power, transport and communications links as well as on rival activists in order to pave the way.
The rebels, who claim inspiration from the revolutionary ideas of the late Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong, have been battling to overthrow the constitutional monarchy and set up a one-party republic in the world's only Hindu kingdom.
The government has not reacted to the offer, made in a statement e-mailed to Nepali newspapers late yesterday.
The message could not be independently verified — a minister contacted by Reuters refused to comment — but the rebels have issued statements before in a similar way. “Infrastructure directly related to the welfare of the people will not be sabotaged,” the e-mail said in Nepali.
“The party will stop physical action against activists of other political parties to create a favourable atmosphere and we urge other political parties to direct their workers not to inform (the government) about the rebellion,” it said.
“This is to stress the need for talks and dialogue to find a peaceful, positive and progressive political solution to the existing crisis in the country.”
Interim Prime Minister Lokendra Bahadur Chand has said he is ready for talks with the rebels but insists they can only begin if the guerrillas make a formal proposal in a letter to the government. Politicians gave the offer a cautious welcome.
“The offer is a positive step if it is implemented honestly,” said Madhav Kumar Nepal, general secretary of the mainstream Communist Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML) party.
Nepal told Reuters the rebels have killed more than 80 of his party’s members so far.
In the latest violence in the kingdom, soldiers gunned down 14 guerrillas in clashes and seized weapons and explosives, the defence ministry said.
The rebels have attacked telecommunications towers, rural airports, bridges and government installations besides security posts and troops. They have also targeted workers of rival political parties saying they were government informers. The rebel statement made no mention of stopping attacks on government forces.
More than 7,200 people have been killed in the revolt that began in 1996. The violence has seriously hurt the impoverished nation's aid-dependent economy, crippling tourism and scaring off investors.
Efforts to end the revolt collapsed late last year when the rebels walked out of talks after the government refused to abolish the monarchy, a popular institution in the Hindu kingdom.
The rebels have since made several offers to resume talks.