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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Nepal Maoists suspect new arms supplies for army

KATHMANDU, Sept 13 (Reuters) - Nepal's Maoist rebels said on Wednesday they suspected the multi-party government of amassing weapons for its army despite an ongoing peace process, but the government strongly denied the charge.

Rebel spokesman Krishna Bahadur Mahara told Reuters dozens of army trucks thought to be carrying arms were headed for Kathmandu through a highway linking it with the southern plains bordering India.

But he did not say where they came from.

"The trucks are now in military barracks near Gajuri," Mahara said referring to a village 70 km (45 miles) west of the capital. "We think they are carrying arms."

But Home Minister Krishna Prasada Sitaula said the 33 trucks were carrying goods and equipment for Nepali troops going to join United Nations peacekeeping operations in Lebanon for which the country has committed 850 soldiers.

He did not elaborate on where the trucks had come from.

"I urge the Maoist friends not to raise any doubt about the intention of the government," Sitaula told parliament. "The government is committed to fulfil all its commitments made to the Maoists to establish peace in the country."

The Maoists and government agreed to a ceasefire in May after King Gyanendra ceded absolute power and restored multi-party rule in April following weeks of mass protests.

The two sides are also holding talks to end the revolt aimed at turning the Himalayan nation into a communist state. More than 13,000 people have been killed in the revolt which began in 1996.

The government and the guerrillas have agreed to confine their respective armies and weapons to temporary camps and barracks under United Nations supervision, but suspicions remain.

The rebels have accused the government of dragging its feet over a power-sharing deal with them that includes elections to a special assembly next year that will decide a new constitution.

"The government must create an atmosphere of confidence for talks and lock up the weapons and keep them under the United Nations supervision," said Ananta, another top Maoist leader.

He said if the army was bringing in arms, it would be a violation of the truce code of conduct signed in May.
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