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Nepal's Government Agrees to Pay Maoist Fighters in Camps

21 May 2007

Nepal's government has agreed to begin making monthly payments to Maoist former rebels now living in U.N.-supervised camps. In return, the Maoists will allow the United Nations to resume efforts to verify the former fighters' identities, and check for child soldiers in the camps. Liam Cochrane reports from Kathmandu.

For seven months the former fighters of Nepal's Maoist party have stayed at 28 camps across the country, as part of a peace deal made last year.

Under the deal the Maoists agreed to abandon their armed rebellion and join an interim government and parliament.

The United Nations has registered more than 31,000 Maoist fighters, but has yet to verify that all troops are over 18 years old. It also wants to check to be sure new fighters were not recruited after the peace process began.

Last month, the Maoists blocked U.N. verification until conditions were improved in the camps and salaries were paid to their fighters.

Nepal's Cabinet decided Monday to give a monthly allowance, equal to $46, for each Maoist fighter in the camps, which are also known as cantonments.

"I think we have solved a major problem with cantonments," said Krishna Bahadur Mahara, the spokesman for the government and also a senior Maoist leader.

Mahara said the monthly payments would be given to all 31,000 Maoists currently in the camps, not just those verified by the U.N. to be legitimate soldiers.

The Cabinet decision on allowances could mean a breakthrough for the U.N. verification process - a key part of last November's peace deal.

"UNMIN has been ready to do this process now for the last couple of months, so this would be very good news and we would seek to meet with the Maoist leadership very soon so that we can iron out the details and commence that process," said Kieran Dwyer, the spokesman for the U.N. Mission in Nepal.

The United Nations says it can begin verification within days. Final arrangements must first be cleared by the Joint Monitoring Coordination Committee, a body made up of representatives from the U.N., Nepal government and Maoist army.

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