Nepali Maoists threaten "massive" anti-king protests

By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU, May 1 (Reuters) - Nepal's former Maoist rebels threatened on Tuesday to launch fresh street protests to press for abolition of the monarchy, in their toughest comments since joining an interim government in April.

"If the government and political parties do not agree to declare a republic in two weeks then we will begin massive protests in parliament and on the streets," Maoist chief Prachanda told a May Day rally in Kathmandu.

"We still want unity with the seven political parties but it now depends on their willingness to accept a republic," Prachanda, whose nom de guerre means "militant" or "terrible", told thousands of supporters.

The Maoists signed a landmark peace deal with the government in November declaring an end to their decade-old civil war in which more than 13,000 people were killed.

They have already put their arms under lock and key and confined thousands of fighters to camps monitored by the United Nations.

But they are unhappy that election officials have asked for a delay in holding elections for a constituent assembly, and demand that the Himalayan nation be declared a republic if elections cannot be held in June as earlier planned.

The assembly is meant to map the country's political future including that of the monarchy.

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala insists that a decision on the monarchy's future should be left to the constituent assembly as agreed in the peace deal.

Earlier in the day, the United Nations had rejected conditions set by the Maoists to allow the world body to check for the presence of child soldiers in their ranks, saying the terms violated the landmark peace pact.

U.N. monitors had planned to begin a verification of Maoist combatants on Tuesday to identify any child soldiers or recruits who were enlisted after a peace process began last year in an attempt to inflate the strength of the former rebels.

But the Maoists have said they would not allow the process to begin until conditions at camps housing combatants disarmed earlier were improved and the interim government paid a monthly remuneration to the fighters.

Although conditions at the camps, such as the quality of shelters, sanitation and access to water and electricity, were poor, the Maoists had unconditionally agreed to allow verification, U.N. envoy Ian Martin told reporters.

"We can't accept the tying of the beginning of verification to any other conditions," said Martin, special representative of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

"I regret that we have not been able to begin the process of verification, the second stage of registration, as we should have done by now," he said.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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