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Nepalese Rebel Protests Will Delay Polls

Nepalese Rebel Protests Will Delay Polls

Jan. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Nepal's rebels will delay elections planned for this year if they continue to create disputes such as objecting to establishing police posts and allowing poll officials to work, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala said.

The government is talking to leaders of the rebel Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) about opening police stations closed during a 10-year insurgency, Nepalnews.com cited Koirala as saying yesterday. Rebels have agreed only to posts being established in ``sensitive areas,'' Krishna Bahadur Mahara, a rebel spokesman, said two days ago.

Election officials are needed to produce lists of voters to ensure the polls take place as scheduled in June, the prime minister said.

Nepal's government and rebels signed a peace agreement in November to end an insurgency that claimed the lives of 13,000 people and curbed economic growth in the Himalayan kingdom. The rebels will join an interim government that will organize elections for an assembly that will draw up a new constitution.

``We have agreed to re-establish police posts in very sensitive areas only on the basis of mutual understanding and not across the country,'' Nepalnews.com cited Mahara as saying Dec. 31.

Puspa Kamal Dahal, the rebel leader known as Prachanda, has agreed that officials may take up posts to help prepare the elections for the constituent assembly, Mahara said.

The creation of the interim administration, which was scheduled for last month, has been delayed because a program to disarm the rebels under United Nations supervision hasn't started. The handover will begin when monitors start their work this month.

Rebel Camps

Fighters from the rebel People's Liberation Army are gathered in 28 camps across the country where they will hand in their weapons. The Nepalese Army will place a similar quantity in storage. Rebel leaders revealed during peace talks last year that the PLA has about 35,000 fighters with 25,000 weapons.

The U.S. has yet to lift its designation of the rebel group as a terrorist organization. The rebels haven't proved they have shunned violence, James Moriarty, the U.S. ambassador in Kathmandu, said Dec. 31, according to Nepalnews.com.

``Kidnappings, violence and intimidation are continuing,'' Moriarty said.

Nepal's economic growth is forecast to shrink to 1.8 percent this year. A peace settlement will allow the government to cut defense spending and economic growth in 2007 may reach 5 percent, Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat said in July.

The economy depends on tourism for foreign exchange. The country of 27 million people, located between China and India, is home to Mount Everest, the world's tallest mountain, and eight other of the world's 14 peaks higher than 8,000 meters (26,248 feet).

About 42 percent of Nepalese live below the poverty line and 80 percent of them rely on agriculture for a livelihood.

To contact the reporter on this story: Paul Tighe in Sydney at ptighe@bloomberg.net Links

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posted by Bimal 2.1.07,


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