By Gopal Sharma
HETAUDA, Nepal (Reuters) - Nepal's Maoist prime minister said on Saturday he was ready for a unity government to oversee May elections, in an attempt to break a deadlock threatening a peace process that ended a decade-long civil war.
"We are ready to accept a national unity government under anybody's leadership to hold elections for the constituent assembly," Baburam Bhattarai told party delegates gathered for the six-day conference in the industrial town of Hetauda, 80 km (50 miles) southeast of Kathmandu.
Bhattarai, a former rebel leader who last week unveiled plans for May elections, gave few details. He did not say if he was ready to resign or when the unity government might be formed. Opposition parties have doubted the former rebel's commitment to holding elections.
Elections would lead to a constituent assembly to prepare a draft of Nepal's first republican constitution, a major condition in the peace deal.
Bhattarai's announcement at the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)'s first national congress in 21 years followed demands by opposition parties that he resign to make way for a government formed by the consensus of most political parties to supervise elections.
The Maoists waged an armed rebellion against Nepal's monarchy until joining the political mainstream under a peace process in 2006. They won elections two years later and voted out the king, turning Nepal into a federal, democratic and secular republic.
A special Constituent Assembly, which doubled as parliament, was dissolved in May last year over disagreements among politicians about the nature, borders and resources of the federal states they have agreed to create. There was also disagreement over how to give a greater say to marginalized and minority ethnic groups in running the central government.
Maoist chief Prachanda, the most powerful politician in Nepal, said the meeting due to end on Thursday would come up with a plan to end the political deadlock. He did not give the details.
More than 16,000 people were killed in the conflict which wrecked the aid- and tourism-dependent economy and destroyed infrastructure.
(Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Editing by Jason Webb)