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SLUG: 2-297238 NEPAL-BLAST (L-only)









INTRO: In Nepal, five people including two soldiers have been killed, and 30 others are wounded in a landmine blast Sunday blamed on Maoist rebels. Anjana Pasricha reports, the latest violence has been reported days after the guerrillas renewed an offer for peace talks to end their six-year insurgency.

TEXT: Police say a bus carrying soldiers, policemen and civilians hit a landmine near a village

(Krakare) in Sindhuli district, about 200 kilometers south east of the capital, Kathmandu. The

district was the scene of a massive rebel attack three months ago.

Army helicopters carried the wounded passengers to the hospital. Police reinforcements have been

rushed to the area.

The latest violence comes just days after Maoist rebels said they want a peaceful and positive

politcal solution to the existing crisis in the country -- and offered to hold a dialogue with the

government. There is no response yet from the government.

The rebels also offered to halt attacks on political activists and infrastructure to create a favorable atmosphere for the talks.

Officials say the bus was probably targeted because it was carrying soldiers and policemen.

The guerrillas launched a campaign in 1996 to replace the country's constitutional monarcy with

a communist republic. More than 7000 people, including security personnel, rebels and

civilians have been killed in the fighting.

The violence has esclated since peace talks collapsed last year, and the government ordered the

army to crush the rebellion.

Nepalese prime minister Lokendra Bahadur Chand, who assumed power two months ago, has said he is ready for a dialogue with the rebels, but insists the Maoists must first make a formal proposal.

Political analysts say they are skeptical about the prospects of early peace talks due to the

political flux in Nepal. They point out that mainstream political parties would have to be

included in a meaningful dialogue -- but they are not represented in the new administration

which was appointed by King Gyandendra after he sacked the country's elected government and

assumed full executive powers. (signed)


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