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Approval Sought for US Families to Leave Nepal - 2004-09-14

The U.S. Ambassador to Nepal is urging Washington to allow families of U.S. officials in Kathmandu to return home days after an American cultural center was bombed by suspected Maoist rebels. Spokeswoman Constance Jones at the U.S. mission in Nepal says the request to return home will affect only those of about 40 family members of embassy officials who wish to leave because of the security situation.

The American Information Center, a cultural exchange institution affiliated with the U.S. embassy, was bombed last week by suspected Maoist rebels. No one was hurt in the attack in Nepal's capital Kathmandu and the damage to the building was minor.

Ms. Jones says the embassy also expects to suspend the work of some 87 Peace Corps volunteers until security improves.

The spokeswoman says the attack - the first on an American facility in the country - has strengthened the U.S. government's resolve to help Nepal's rulers end the bloody insurrection.

"This attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities will only increase American support for the government of Nepal to find a peaceful solution," says Ms. Jones.

The United States is the Nepalese government's biggest backer in its war against the rebels, and on Monday announced an additional million dollar aid package.

The Maoists have been fighting an eight-year insurgency to replace the Himalayan kingdom's constitutional monarchy with a communist state.

In recent days, the rebels have paralyzed life in capital by blockading it and have hurt the economy by forcing dozens of businesses to close.