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Nepal's King Gyanendra Criticizes Military Aid Freeze, Defends Power Grab

  • Anjana Pasricha

With Nepal facing a military aid embargo, King Gyanendra has called on the international community to continue supporting his government's struggle against Maoist insurgents. The king has also defended his recent power grab.

King Gyanendra says countries friendly to Nepal should help his government in word and deed.

He made the comments in his first meeting with journalists since seizing control of the government earlier this month, and just days after India and Britain announced that they were cutting military aid to the Nepali army. The United States has warned it is considering a similar move, while several countries have recalled their ambassadors to protest the king's power grab.

King Gyanendra told the gathering of Nepalese newspaper editors that such actions by Nepal's allies would send the wrong message.

He said he only took power to fight terrorism - a reference to the Maoist insurgency that has been raging since 1996. The Maoists want to turn Nepal into a communist republic.

Ajay Sahni, head of the Institute of Conflict Management in New Delhi, says the king's argument is unlikely to sway the international community.

"It is not the international community which is strengthening the cause of the Maoists by not giving King Gyanendra weapons, but rather King Gyanendra, who has in fact advanced the cause of the Maoists by taking a set of steps which he should have known would invite international ire," he said.

The Nepalese monarch defended his actions and stressed his commitment to democracy. He pledged to restore democracy in three years.

The authorities have detained dozens of top political leaders and activists. Many others have gone underground. There is strict censorship, and all protests against the new royalist administration have been banned.

King Gyanendra criticized the old government for its failure to hold elections and end the Maoist insurgency.

Analysts say that despite the king's latest plea, the international community is likely to keep pressuring him to restore normal political activity and lift the emergency.