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US Official Calls on Maoists in Nepal to Renounce Violent Ways


A U.S. government official has called for an end to Maoist violence in Nepal, where the country's former rebels are making a jerky transition from armed insurgents to mainstream politicians. Liam Cochrane has more from Kathmandu.

2006 was a year of hope for Nepal, but Barry Lowenkron, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for democracy, human Rights and labor, says the peace process is being undermined by the actions of some of the former Maoist rebels.

Lowenkron, who spent the past four days in Kathmandu assessing the political and human rights situation, was especially critical of actions by the Young Communist League, or YCL.

The YCL is led by former Maoist fighters, and has attacked several government offices in the countryside since the Maoist leadership signed a peace agreement and entered the government. Last week, YCL members threw stones at a United Nations vehicle carrying the U.S. ambassador to Nepal.

Lowenkron said Saturday that there is no room for violence in a democracy.

"To me, their actions indicate they have yet to make the strategic decision to abandon violence, to abandon coercion, to abandon intimidation and to seek their success in a political arena that is peaceful," he said.

Lowenkron congratulated Nepal's Prime Minister, G.P. Koirala, for his leadership in securing an approximate date for constituent assembly elections. The elections are now scheduled some time in late November or early December, and the winners will write a new constitution and decide on the fate of Nepal's monarchy.

But Lowenkron warned that there was still much work yet to be done before Nepal's transition, from a decade-long civil war that killed 13,000 people to a peaceful and inclusive democracy, is complete.

"The message of my government is clear: one cannot have ballots and bullets in a democratic process," he said.

Lowenkron also called for full investigations into the 937 people who disappeared during Nepal's conflict and remain unaccounted for.

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