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US Ambassador Warns of Chaos in Nepal

The United States ambassador to Nepal has warned that the tiny country faces chaos unless King Gyanendra reconciles with political parties. The warning came as communist rebels killed dozens of Nepalese soldiers in the bloodiest fighting of the past year.

The U.S. ambassador to Nepal, James Moriarty, has urged King Gyanendra to join forces with political parties in order to defeat a bloody Maoist rebellion wracking the country, or risk chaos.

King Gyanendra seized power six months ago, firing the government, jailing many politicians and censoring the news media. The king justified his actions partly by saying that the existing government had failed to end the rebellion.

But Ambassador Moriarty on Tuesday said continuing divisions between the royal palace and the country's political parties are actually aiding the rebels.

The spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu, Lab Dahal, read from the text of the ambassador's speech to the Nepal Council of World Affairs.

"Nepal today is at a crossroad. Unless the principles of freedom, civil rights and democracy once again take root through a process of true reconciliation among the legitimate political forces, I fear your country will inevitably slide toward confrontation, confusion and chaos," said Mr. Dahal.

The king says he took over the government to end the insurgency and put a halt to government corruption.

But the fighting still appears to be escalating. On Sunday, rebels overran an army camp in the remote northwestern district of Kalikot, killing at least 40 soldiers. The army has accused the rebels of lining the soldiers up and shooting them in the head.

The army is continuing to search for scores of other soldiers who are missing. It was the worst attack for the past year, and political analysts say it showed that the rebels are powerful everywhere except in the capital.

Yuvraj Ghimre, editor of Samay magazine, says the latest fighting has reinforced a widespread belief that King Gyanendra's monarchist administration is making no headway in defeating the rebellion.

"Nobody believed that they are succeeding against the rebels," he said. "The most prevailing view is this is a war which cannot be defeated [won] militarily, although the King and his regime believe that military solution perhaps is the most effective way to deal with the Maoists."

The rebellion erupted in 1996, and more than 12,000 people have been killed in the fighting since. The recent political turmoil has added to the country's troubles. The streets of Kathmandu witness almost daily demonstrations by pro-democracy activists.