Nepal's Communist rebels declared an immediate cease-fire on Saturday in an effort to spur their contacts with the Himalayan kingdom's mainstream political parties.
Maoist guerrillas have been fighting for nearly 10 years to overthrow the Nepalese monarchy. Their leader (a man known as Prachanda) says the three-month cease-fire is a unilateral gesture intended to foster talks on forming a united opposition against King Gyanendra. In a statement sent to news organizations in Kathmandu, the rebel chief said his fighters will refrain from attacking troops and civilians, but the guerrillas will "violently retaliate" against an offensive by government forces. The Nepali Congress, the country's largest political party, has welcomed the truce. Party officials express hope it will lead to permanent peace. Clashes have increased since February when the king assumed absolute control of the country. He said the four parties then in power were ineffectual in their efforts to control the insurgency.