Nepal government begins process to integrate former rebel fighters

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Kathmandu_(dpa) _ Nepal's Maoist-led government began the process to integrate thousands of former rebel fighters into the national army and other security agencies, a government minister said Wednesday.

"The government formed a high-level committee that will make final decisions on the integration of the former rebel fighters, manage and rehabilitate them," government spokesman and minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara said.

The five-member committee, composed of members from coalition partners as well as the opposition, will be led by Home Minister Bam Dev Gautam, according to Mahara.

The integration of former rebel fighters is part of the peace deal signed between the government and the Maoist former rebels that ended a decade-long insurgency in 2006.

"The committee will start its work immediately," Mahara said.

The Nepali Congress party, which decided to remain in the opposition, said it will not be part of the committee because its suggestions had been ignored by the Maoist led government.

"The government constituted the committee unilaterally and we are not in consensus with the Maoists over the composition of the committee," said Ram Chandra Poudel, former peace minister from the Nepali Congress party.

Of the original 31,000 Maoist combatants housed in 28 camps across Nepal, just over 19,000 passed the rigid verification process of the UN which qualified them for integration into security forces.

The process has deadlocked as hostilities between the Nepali Congress and the Maoists are increasing.

Nepali Congress has publicly said it opposed the large scale integration of Maoist combatants into the army, saying it preferred setting up an industrial force for the purpose.

Last week, the United Nations called for a speedy resolution of the future of Maoist combatants.

During the verification process, nearly 12,000 combatants were disqualified, with nearly half of them minors below the age of 18.

The United Nations Mission in Nepal, which has monitored camps housing the former rebels, has also called for the rehabilitation of disqualified combatants.

"Sustaining peace requires efforts to heal the wounds of the conflict - to clarify the fate of those who disappeared, compensate victims, enable the return of displaced persons to their homes and to end impunity," the UN said. dpa kr pw

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