A police officer said the Maoists killed a taxi driver in the temple town of Lalitpur on the outskirts of Kathmandu on Tuesday, apparently for defying their call for a week-long strike aimed at disrupting the vote.
 
The municipal poll was ordered by King Gyanendra, who fired the government and seized absolute power last year.

It would be the country's first election since 1999, though Nepal's main political parties were calling to boycott it and demanding that the king hand power back to an all-party government.
 
Political leaders say they fear that the king will use the municipal polls to tighten his grip on power.

A government official said that up to 300 Maoist guerrillas attacked Panauti town on Monday, killing one soldier and a police officer at an army post. During the raid, which began at 1445 GMT, the local administration building was bombed.

More than 100 soldiers and armoured personnel carriers were in the town.
 
An army officer said five soldiers and policemen were also killed on Monday when Maoists attacked an army patrol in a village east of Kathmandu.

Meaningful talks

The rebels, who have been fighting since 1996 for a socialist state, have already been blamed for killing at least two candidates and attacking several others.

Prachanda, the Maoist chief, told a local newspaper that the rebels were ready for meaningful talks with the government if it agreed to their demand for an assembly to prepare a new constitution.

The rebels pulled out of peace talks in 2001 and 2003 amid a row over the future of the king, who is considered a god by Hindus.

Unilateral ceasefire

Prachanda told the Kathmandu Post that the rebels would match any government truce and accept the outcome of elections for a constituent assembly supervised by an interim government.

"We will accept it if the constituent assembly says we want the monarchy," he said. "We will accept it even if the people say we want an active monarch."
 
In January, the Maoists ended a four-month unilateral ceasefire after the royalist government refused to match their truce, calling it a rebel ploy to regroup or reorganise.