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Communist Rebels' Extension of Ceasefire in Nepal

Annan Welcomes Communist Rebels' Extension of Ceasefire in Nepal

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today welcomed the decision by the rebel Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) to extend by one month the unilateral ceasefire that it declared in September in its decade-long battle to oust the Himalayan country's monarchy.

"It will be recalled that the Secretary-General had recently called for an extension and urged His Majesty's Government of Nepal to reciprocate the ceasefire," Mr. Annan's spokesman said in a statement.

Just two days ago UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour expressed serious concern about the possible resumption of full-scale armed conflict in Nepal, as well as about increasing violations of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

"A mutual ceasefire between the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and the Government of King Gyanendra and steps towards lasting peace are crucial to bring to an end a period of grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by both the Maoists and the State," Ms. Arbour said.

She added that her office in Nepal had voiced growing concern over measures by the Government that restrict rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and peaceful assembly and affect the media, non-governmental organizations, political parties and civil society in general.

"I call upon the judiciary to act independently in upholding Nepal's international human rights obligations, and upon the Government and the security forces to respect the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly," she said.

In February, Mr. Annan called the King's measures dissolving the
Government, imposing a state of emergency and suspending civil liberties and freedom of expression a "serious setback for the country."

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