The Nepalese government formally called on rebel groups operating in restive southern Nepal for talks to end the violence, media reports said Saturday. ( dpa )
The government call came weeks ahead of key elections that the southern rebel groups are threatening to disrupt.
"I have officially invited them for formal talks to end violence in southern plains," Minister for Peace and Reconstruction Ram Chandra Poudel was quoted by Himalayan Times as saying.
The peace ministry is reported to have dispatched official invitation letters to four armed rebels groups: Janatantrik Tarai Mukti Morcha led by Jwala Singh, Akhil Tarai Mukti Morcha led by Jaya Krishan Goit, Loktantrik Tarai Cobra led by Nagraj and Madhesi Tiger led by Pratap.
"The government has invited them to come for talks within three days at an appropriate place convenient for both the sides," the minister said.
The government invitation followed indications by the armed groups that they were ready for talks if the government created an environment for negotiations.
However, they have put forward a number of preconditions, including mediation by the United Nations or other international groups, which have already been rejected by the government.
All four groups have been blamed for attacks on government employees, kidnappings and murders.
The groups have also issued threats to candidates to withdraw their nominations or face possible violence.
Southern Nepal has seen some of the worst violence since the end of communist insurgency in late 2006.
Protests by ethnic Madhesi groups earlier this year crippled life for more than two weeks with an indefinite strike across the region.
The strikes ended after the government agreed to meet demands that included guarantees of a federal state for the southern Nepalese plains, known as Terai, and increases in government jobs.
More than 150 people have died in violence in Terai in the past 15 months.