KATMANDU, Nepal -- The chief of Nepal's Maoist rebels emerged from a landmark meeting with government leaders yesterday to announce that the guerrillas would join a new interim administration for the Himalayan kingdom.
The rebel leader known as Prachanda, who has long been elusive, said the new government would be formed within a month. ``This is a historic decision and will move the country in a new direction," he told reporters.
Officials of the government that took office after mass protests forced the king to give up absolute power April 24 had no immediate comment. But Home Minister Krishna Sitaula read the text of the deal before Prachanda addressed reporters.
It remains to be seen if leaders of the traditional political parties and the rebels can work together after an insurgency by the Maoists that killed 13,000 people, ruined Nepal's tourism business, and lasted a decade.
The interim government, which is to draw up a new constitution, will replace the current national parliament as well as the Maoists' ``people's government," which rules the territory they control, according to the deal.
The agreement also calls for creation of an interim constitution and for United Nations' oversight of both Nepalese soldiers and Maoist fighters.
It makes no mention, however, of disarmament.
An agreement of some sort had been expected, and the deal was seen as a positive sign for Nepal, one of the world's poorest nations.
``Today's meeting was a breakthrough in establishing peace in Nepal," said Narayan Wagle , editor of Kantipur , the country's biggest newspaper. ``Prachanda appearing in public in the capital was a big achievement that guarantees that they [the rebels] will not be returning to the jungles."
The past year has seen immense political changes in Nepal, where weeks of mass street protests and a general strike organized by an alliance between the rebels and the now-ruling parties forced King Gyanendra to relinquish the absolute power he had seized in early 2005.