Nepal PM Meets With Communist Rebel Leader for Peace Talks

The elusive leader of Nepal's communist rebels flew to the capital Friday and held an unprecedented meeting with the prime minister aimed at resolving the country's decade-old insurgency, an official said.

The rebel leader, Prachanda, and a deputy were escorted into the residence of Prime Minster Girija Prasad Koirala in Katmandu under heavy security, a Koirala aide said on condition of anonymity.

It was the first meeting between Prachanda, whose real name is Pushpa Kamal Dahal, and country's top leader since the insurgency began in 1996.

CountryWatch: Nepal

Reporters and photographers who were camped outside Koirala's house were not allowed near the cars transporting the rebels. It was not clear how long the meeting would last.

"The meeting between the prime minister and Prachanda will center on settling major political issues," Tourism Minister Pradeep Gyawali, who is also member of the government peace talks team, had said before the meeting.

Government and Maoist rebel negotiators had met Thursday for a second round of peace talks.

"We have decided that there will soon be a meeting between top Maoist leaders and leaders of the seven-party ruling alliance," Home Minister Krishna Sitaula said after Thursday's meeting. "They will decide on the major issues."

Rebel leader Prachanda used to be rarely seen, and only then in the remote villages controlled by the rebels.

At Thursday's two-hour peace talks in the capital, Katmandu, rebel and government representatives agreed to form a monitoring committee comprising peace activists and human rights workers, with help from the United Nations.

The first round of talks to end the conflict took place last month when the two sides agreed on a code of conduct and said they would meet for talks again.

Nepal's new government took office after King Gyanendra agreed to relinquish control in April following weeks of anti-monarchy protests and a general strike.

The unrest was organized largely by the politicians now in power and backed by the rebels — a bond that smoothed the way for the peace dialogue.

The new government has released hundreds of rebels from jail, dropped terrorism charges against them, and agreed to a cease-fire. It also has agreed to rewrite the constitution, a key rebel demand that crippled peace talks in 2001 and 2003.

The rebels, who claim to be inspired by Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong, began fighting to replace the constitutional monarchy with a communist state in 1996.