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US Calls on Nepal's King to Restore Democracy Immediately


The United States said Monday the effort by Nepal's politically besieged King Gyanendra to rule the country by decree has been a total failure. The State Department called on him to restore democracy and open dialogue with the political opposition.

The Bush administration is watching the political unrest in Nepal with growing concern, and is trying to increase the pressure on King Gyanendra to lift the state of emergency he imposed more than a year ago and engage with the democratic opposition.

The State Department began its daily press briefing Monday with an unusual public appeal to the Nepalese ruler to scrap his effort at direct rule, which department spokesman Sean McCormack said has only added to the Himalayan country's serious problems. "As a friend of Nepal, we must state that King Gyanendra's decision 14 months ago to impose direct palace rule in Nepal has failed in every regard. The demonstrations, deaths, arrests, and Maoist attacks in the past few days have shown there is more insecurity, not less. The king's continuing failure to bring the parties back into a process to restore democracy has compounded the problem," he said.

King Gyandendra dismissed parliament and seized absolute power in February of 2005, saying politicians had failed to quell the decade-long Maoist insurgency that has left thousands of people dead.

The Nepalese capital has seen the most intense demonstrations against the king's direct rule in the past few days, with protesters defying a curfew and the palace's "shoot on sight" warnings. Three protesters have been killed and some 800 arrested since demonstrations began last week.

Spokesman McCormack said the United States calls on the king to restore democracy immediately and begin dialogue with Nepal's constitutional political parties. He said it is time the king recognizes that the best way to deal with the Maoists is to return peace and prosperity to the country.

The State Department last week condemned the king's ban on public gatherings and detention of opponents, and said the dialogue the troubled country needs cannot occur in a climate in which freedoms of assembly and speech are suppressed.

McCormack said the U.S. Ambassador in Katmandu James Moriarity intended to seek a meeting with King Gyanendra to convey personally the views expressed in Monday's public statement.

In an interview in New Delhi last Friday, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Richard Boucher said the U.S. ban on the provision of lethal military aid to Nepal, imposed last year, will continue and that no change is being considered.

Boucher also called on the Nepalese insurgents, who have allied themselves with the political opposition in the current standoff with the king, to abandon violence and move into the mainstream where he said they can contest power by political means.

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