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Nepal's Maoists refuse to disarm, but accept UN arms supervision

NEPAL: Nepal's Maoist rebels said they are not prepared to disarm but are willing to put their army and their weapons under the supervision of the United Nations.

The new government and the Maoists reached a landmark power-sharing agreement last week, but Nepal's home minister has said that the interim government cannot be formed until the Maoists lay down their weapons.

"We are not going to disarm. But to create a conducive environment for constituent assembly elections we are willing to neutralise our weapons and our army under UN monitoring," rebel spokesman Krishna Bahadur Mahara told AFP.

Under last week's agreement parliament will be dissolved and power shared in a new interim government, which is due to come into being within a month.

In the longer term the government has pledged to hold constituent assembly elections to form a a body that will permanently rewrite the constitution, and most likely remove the king from politics permanenetly.

King Gyanendra was forced to give up 14 months of direct rule in April after weeks of often bloody protests organized by political parties and the Maoists.

Mahara said the rebels would not use arms during the constituent assembly elections and called on the army to match the move. A ceasefire is currently in force.

"We are expecting UN monitoring and technical assistance for the management of arms from both sides," he said.

The question of the rebels laying down arms was not addressed in their eight-point agreement. But Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula said on Wednesday the issue must be addressed before the power-sharing arrangement comes into effect.

"Formation of the interim government is not possible without settling the Maoists' arms issues," Sitaula said.

The Maoists have been fighting to install a communist republic for the past decade at the cost of more than 12,500 lives. Kathmandu, Friday, AFP

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