Kathmandu, May 31 : Nepal’s shadowy Maoist leader made his first public appearance in a decade at a meeting in a rural district 200 kilometres (120 miles) southwest of the capital, a spokesman said.
"Prachanda appeared in Makwanpur yesterday and addressed a general meeting with our party cadres," said Krishna Bahadur Mahara, a rebel spokesman and head of the Maoist preliminary peace talks team.
The rebel leader whose name means "the fierce one" has spoken at Maoist gatherings in the past and given interviews, but this was his first appearance in public, Mahara said on Wednesday.
The Maoists, who control large swathes of the rugged countryside, are engaged in a ceasefire with the new government which came into power after King Gyanendra was forced to end his 14 months of direct rule last month.
"Prachanda told the crowd that ’we will leave no stone unturned to make the current peace talks a success,’" the Maoist spokesman told reporters.
On Friday the rebels plan to hold a mass public meeting in the capital, but Prachanda is not expected to make an appearance, Mahara said.
Prachanda -- real name Pushpa Kamal Dahal -- went underground and began a Maoist "people’s war" in 1996.
In the decade since then, more than 12,500 people have been killed, and as many as 200,000 have been displaced inside the impoverished Himalayan nation.
The new government has agreed to a key Maoist demand, for elections to a body that will rewrite the constitution, and both sides have agreed on a ceasefire code of conduct.
King Gyanendra handed back power to parliament last month after weeks of mass pro-democracy protests by political parties in concert with the Maoists.
The new government has drastically clipped the king’s former powers, and two of the three main parties in the coalition government see a ceremonial role for the monarch, but the Maoists are calling for a republic.