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US Ambassador in Nepal Meets Maoist Leader for First Time


The U.S. ambassador in Kathmandu has, for the first time, met with the leader of Nepal's Maoists, an organization still on Washington's terrorism watch list. VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports from our South Asia bureau in New Delhi.

The U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu and the Maoists are saying little about the first meeting between American Ambassador Nancy Powell and Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the Maoist leader known as Prachanda.

The United States still officially considers the former rebels, who now compose Nepal's Maoist Communist Party, as a terrorist organization.

Tribhuvan University political science professor Krishna Khanal says there were indications in recent weeks that such a meeting between Ambassador Powell and Prachanda was inevitable.

"There was no direct contact between the U.S. ambassador and the Maoist leader here in Kathmandu," said Khanal. "But after the constituent assembly elections and the Maoist victory, there were some indications that American officials and the Maoist leaders had these occasions to see each other and meet."

Nepalese media report that the Maoists term the unprecedented meeting at Prachanda's residence Thursday as "very positive."

The Maoists ended a ten-year violent campaign against Nepal's government in 2006 and entered into a peace pact, which led to last month's national elections.

In a brief statement issued Friday, the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu said the ambassador sought assurances from the Maoist leader that the new government will respect current agreements with international aid organizations and "ensure the safety of those implementing them."

The ambassador left Nepal Friday for Washington where she is to brief the Bush administration on U.S.-Nepal relations in wake of the surprising election victory by the Maoists.

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