updated 5/4/2006 9:39:00 AM ET 2006-05-04T13:39:00

Nepal’s Maoist rebels welcomed on Thursday a cease-fire announced by the new, multi-party government and said they would join talks to try and end a decade-old insurgency that has killed thousands.

The Maoist reaction came a day after new Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s government announced an indefinite truce to match a cease-fire declared by the insurgents last week.

The government also decided to seek the withdrawal of Interpol arrest warrants against rebel leaders and remove the “terrorist” tag on them.

“We welcome it as a positive move forward towards fulfilling the aspirations of the people for democracy, peace and progress,” rebel chief Prachanda said in a statement.

Years long anti-monarchy effort
The rebel chief, whose assumed name means “Awesome” in the Nepali language, said the country was on its way to becoming a republic after weeks of often violent mass protests last month that forced King Gyanendra to give up absolute power.

“The desire of the people expressed through the popular movement is to adopt a republican system through an unconditional constituent assembly,” he said.

The rebels, he said, would make “maximum effort” during talks with Koirala’s government to draft a roadmap for polls to a special assembly to write a new constitution and decide the future of the monarchy.

The Maoists have been fighting since 1996 to topple the monarchy and establish one-party communist rule in the Himalayan kingdom.

More than 13,000 people have died in the conflict that has also badly dented Nepal’s aid and tourism dependent economy.

At least 15 people were killed and thousands injured in the protests against the king, which also brought the impoverished country to a standstill for about three weeks.

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