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US Envoy Urges Speedy Return to Democracy in Nepal

U.S. Ambassador to Nepal James Moriarity, recalled last week after King Gyanendra's state-of-emergency declaration, says the Nepalese monarch needs to move quickly to restore democracy. If not, he says international security assistance to Nepal will be at risk.

King Gyanendra has laid out a 100-day plan for restoring constitutional freedoms and dealing with the country's Maoist insurgency following his February first emergency decree.

But Ambassador Moriarity says the United States, India, the European Union, and others who have been supporting Nepal's government will be looking for action sooner than that if the country is to avoid punitive action including aid cutbacks.

The U.S. envoy was recalled to Washington for a week of consultations last Friday in a move coordinated with European Union governments.

In a talk with reporters as he prepared to return to Katmandu, Ambassador Moriarity said the King's dismissal of the government and assumption of emergency powers were not entirely unwelcome among a population frustrated by corruption and frightened by the insurgency.

However, he said unless the King delivers on his promises to restore democracy, he will jeopardize international security assistance and, with it, the government's ability to cope with the insurgents who have waged war against it for a decade.

"We genuinely believe that the king will not be able to effectively deal with the Maoists unilaterally, that he needs the support of the parties, he needs the support of the people," said Mr. Moriarity. "And if he doesn't begin reaching out [to] the parties, if he doesn't come up with a game plan for restoring democracy, then he's not going to be able to deal with the insurgency effectively."

The ambassador said if the king follows through on his promises, he might emerge in a better position than before the emergency declaration.

But he said if there is no tangible action within a matter of weeks, there will be pressure to reduce aid to Nepal, especially non-lethal security assistance.

The United States has provided Nepal with about $6 million in military aid in the last two years. Its economic aid program is much larger, about $40 million a year, most of it for health projects including child nutrition and efforts to combat HIV/AIDS.

Ambassador Moriarity acknowledged that cutting aid might embolden the Maoists, and said this underlines the urgency of restoring multi-party rule and presenting a united front against the insurgents.

"They want victory," he added. "They don't want to compromise. They're not there yet. And until they realize that they have a unified force among the legitimate political parties and the palace, until they realize that the international community is not going to provide them any support, and until finally they realize that they're not going to be able to defeat the RNA, they're not going to be making compromises."

The ambassador said if the Maoists came to power, they would turn Nepal into what he termed a poor man's version of Cambodia under the Pol Pot regime that tyrannized the country in the 1970s.

The insurgents' political arm, the Communist Party of Nepal, has been listed as a terrorist group by the State Department since 2003.