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Amnesty International Calls for Suspension of Military Aid to Nepal

Amnesty International is calling for the international community to suspend military aid to Nepal. The rights organization says King Gyanendra's power seizure has worsened the human-rights situation in Nepal.

Irene Khan, the secretary general of Amnesty International, says the world community must put more pressure on Nepal to prevent what she calls a human-rights catastrophe. That includes the suspension of military aid.

"Given the alliance between the palace and the military, the role of the security forces in restricting and violating human rights and the increased significance of the security forces during the state of emergency, we are calling on donors to suspend all military assistance to the government of Nepal as a means of pressurizing it to change the human rights policies," said Irene Khan.

King Gyanendra dismissed the government, declared a state of emergency and gave himself absolute power earlier this month. He has censored the media and placed dozens of politicians, human-rights activists, and journalists under house arrest.

The king has announced the formation of a special commission to crack down on corrupt politicians and civil servants. He has defended his actions, saying politicians had failed to organize elections or end a nine-year military struggle with Maoist guerrillas.

But Nepal's main military suppliers, Britain, India, and the United States, are among the many countries that have condemned his moves.

Last week, U.S. Ambassador to Nepal James Moriarty said the king had promised to lift human rights restrictions within 100 days. If he does not, Mr. Moriarty warned, U.S. assistance to Nepal could be at risk.

Ms. Khan says that when she met with King Gyanendra earlier this week, he assured her that political prisoners would be released and human rights restored.

"What is worrying us very much is that of the 100 days, about 15-16 days have already gone by and the early trends do not show any indication of how the king intends to bring about the dramatic change, peace, prosperity and human rights that he has promised," she said.

Despite the king's assurances, the authorities arrested two members of the opposition Nepali Congress Party two days after Ms. Khan's royal audience.

Ms. Khan and others warn that King Gyanendra's power grab could exacerbate the government's war with the Maoists, rather than resolve it.