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US Urges Nepal's Gyanendra to Cede Power, Assume Ceremonial Role


The United States is calling on Nepal's King Gyanendra, who said late Monday he will reinstate the parliament, to hand power back to the country's political parties and to retain only a ceremonial role. The United States is evacuating some diplomatic personnel from Nepal because of the political unrest.

The United States is not calling for the Nepalese monarch to give up the throne. But officials here do say he should follow-up on his promise to reinstate parliament by handing over power to the political parties and assuming a ceremonial role in the Himalayan country's governance.

In a statement issued after the king's late-night announcement in Katmandu, State Department Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli paid tribute to what he said was the courage and resilience of the Nepalese people in their protest movement against the king's assumption of absolute power more than a year ago.

The spokesman said Nepal's political parties must now step up to their responsibilities and cooperate to turn the peoples' demands for democracy and good governance into reality. He urged the country's Maoists to end violent attacks and join a peaceful political process.

King Gyanendra dismissed the civilian cabinet and declared a state of emergency in February of last year, saying the government had failed to deal with the Maoist insurgency. At a news briefing Monday, spokesman Ereli said the United States had consistently opposed the state of emergency and resulting human rights abuses.

"The King has subverted the democratic process," said Adam Ereli. "It has been a failure. And it's important that the democratic process and democracy and the rule of law be restored, and that you move from autocratic one-man rule to rule by elected representatives of the people, which is what the political parties are. And they'll need to move to permanent elections and a permanent government."

Spokesman Ereli said the United States regretted the loss of life and injuries that occurred in recent demonstrations and called on Nepalese security forces to show utmost restraint in their response, should further demonstrations occur.

The United States has a small aid program for the Nepalese military but halted the transfer of lethal military hardware last year after the king assumed emergency powers.

Earlier Monday, the State Department renewed a call on Americans to defer travel to Nepal, and said those already there should re-evaluate their personal security and consider leaving in light of the unrest.

The travel warning said that non-emergency staff members from the U.S. embassy in Kathmandu and diplomatic dependents had been ordered to depart.

Ereli estimated the number of private U.S. citizens in Nepal at several hundred. He said there was no indication that Americans have been the targets of unrest.

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