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Thursday, Jan. 30, 2003 at 6:27 PM
"We received a notice yesterday from the government side notifying us that they have
withdrawn the terrorist tag and price on our heads," said rebel leader Prachanda, whose real name is Pushpa Kamal Dahal.
Nepal Rebel Leader Calls for a Cease-Fire
By BINAJ GURUBACHARYA
Associated Press Writer
January 29, 2003, 12:00 PM EST
KATMANDU, Nepal -- Nepal's socialist rebel leader announced a cease-fire Wednesday and declared his consent to talks with the government on ending an insurgency that has killed more than 7,000 people.
The announcement came after the government sent the rebels an offer for peace talks -- its first direct approach to the group since fighting started in 1996.
"We received a notice yesterday from the government side notifying us that they have withdrawn the terrorist tag and price on our heads," said rebel leader Prachanda, whose real name is Pushpa Kamal Dahal.
"We are considering this move a positive step and have decided to a cease-fire and agreed to take part in peace talks," he said in a statement sent to news agencies.
The rebels, who claim to be inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, have been fighting to abolish Nepal's constitutional monarchy and establish a socialist state in this Himalayan kingdom.
The government had repeatedly offered to hold peace talks but never formally approached the rebels until Tuesday, when it sent them a covert message, a government official said on condition of anonymity.
"We have to resolve the differences between us through peace talks instead of violence," Minister for Information Ramesh Nath Pandey said after the cease-fire announcement.
The government refused to say when or where talks would take place. Prime Minister Lokendra Bahadur Chand was discussing the situation with his Cabinet, officials said.
The rebel statement came hours after rebels allegedly attacked an army patrol in western Nepal, sparking a clash that killed three soldiers and 13 rebels.
The attack took place near Argabang village in Gulmi district, about 190 miles west of the capital, the Defense Ministry said.
On Sunday, the chief of Nepal's Armed Police Force, his wife and bodyguard were shot dead in an attack blamed on the guerrillas.
Clashes between government forces and rebels have intensified in recent months, with the army joining the police to root out rebels from strongholds in remote mountainous areas.
King Gyanendra declared a state of emergency in November 2001 after the rebels broke a cease-fire and resumed attacks on troops. The emergency was lifted last year.
Copyright © 2003, The Associated Press
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