Terai flare-up, Maoist arms display alarm US
Mar 10, 2007 - 4:38:24 PM

Kathmandu, March 10 - A senior US envoy wound up her two-day trip to Nepal Saturday with a premonition that continuing violent Maoist activities and mounting ethnic unrest could derail the kingdom's peace process.

'My government has become worried by two trends that, if unresolved, threaten Nepal's democratic progress,' Henrietta H. Fore, US Under Secretary of State for Management and the most senior US official to visit Nepal since the pro-democracy movement last year, told reporters in Kathmandu.

'The first is the continuing failure of the Maoists to renounce violence, extortion, and intimidation. Violence and intimidation continue. Impunity continues.'

Fore said when US Assistant Secretary Richard Boucher visited Nepal in November, he had said the Maoists could not walk into parliament with a gun in their pockets.

A year later and a peace pact with the government in place, 'sadly - and incredibly - the Maoists recently proved that statement wrong,' Fore said, referring to a recent incident when a Maoist MP's bodyguards were caught trying to enter parliament with weapons.

Fore said until the Maoists renounced violence and began acting like a mainstream political party, the US felt 'they do not deserve membership in a coalition government whose other partners play by the rules of civility and non-violence'.

After Fore's meeting with Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, the ailing premier told reporters the guerrillas would not be inducted into the government till they had returned all the people's property they had captured and accounted for all their weapons.

The stand puts paid to Maoist dreams of joining the government within March 14 and the rebels have already started showing their displeasure.

Maoist chief Prachanda and party spokesman Krishna Bahadur Mahara Saturday accused elements in the seven-party coalition of being loyal to King Gyanendra and trying to scupper the elections in June.

Prachanda warned that his party would start a movement for the abolition of monarchy through street protests as well as proposals in parliament.

Fore also said Washington was worried by the growing ethnic violence.

'Unity and inclusiveness are central for Nepal's democratic transition and its future,' she said. 'Various groups are clamouring for dialogue. The US hopes that Nepal's leaders can find an effective and transparent manner to engage them.'

The Terai plains in southern Nepal remain paralysed by an indefinite general strike called by the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, that is demanding an autonomous state for plains people.

The strike entered its fifth day Saturday with at least one protester being killed Friday.

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