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Nepal Swears-In New Peace Government with Former Maoist Rebels

01 April 2007

Nepal has sworn-in a new multi-party interim government - which includes former Maoist rebels. The move Sunday is part of a peace deal signed in November to end a decade long violent communist insurgency. VOA's Steve Herman reports from our South Asia bureau in New Delhi.

After two days of intense negotiation, Nepal's eight political parties on Sunday reached consensus to form an unprecedented interim government that includes former Maoist rebels.

Parliament then re-elected veteran Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala. He was instrumental in securing November's peace deal with the Maoists - ending a 10-year insurgency that killed more than 13 thousand people.

Broadcast live on national television, Mr. Koirala swore-in his new cabinet - which includes five former rebels as ministers.

The government is charged with holding elections this year for a special assembly to write a new constitution and decide the fate of the monarchy in politics.

The Maoists had been fighting to overthrow the monarchy without success - until King Gyanendra assumed absolute power in 2005 and suspended civil liberties. The move spurred Nepal's fractured political parties into an alliance and into talks with the Maoists.

Violent street protests in April 2006 finally forced the king to relinquish most of his political power and reinstate democracy.

The prime minister, speaking to Parliament, told lawmakers that Sunday marks the "beginning of a new chapter in the political history of Nepal."

Mr. Koirala requested the cooperation of all political parties and asked them to be patient.

The Maoists, for their part, have handed over their weapons to the United Nations and their fighters are restricted to designated camps. The Maoists have also pledged to participate in the democratic process and observe human rights.

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