News / Asia

Envoys Express Concern About Nepal's Political Crisis

With clashes escalating on the streets of Nepal, a number of foreign envoys are requesting the government and the Maoists reach agreement in the next few days to halt a nationwide strike.

Police fired tear gas and imposed a curfew to quell clashes in the border town, Birguj, a main entry point into Nepal from India.  Men described as Hindu vigilantes attacked Maoist protesters supporting the indefinite strike that has been running for five days.

Tension is also rising in other areas, including Kathmandu, where frustrated merchants are resisting the nationwide shutdown enforced by young Maoists armed with bamboo sticks.  

The European Union delegation here, including Britain, Denmark, Finland, France and Germany - and joined by non-EU members Norway and Switzerland - have issued a joint statement expressing concern about the political crisis. The ambassadors of those countries, who met with Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, Wednesday, are urging him to negotiate an end to the deadlock with the Maoists in the next few days

Western governments form the majority of Nepal's donors.

Nepal is asking the United Nations to extend its special political mission, set to expire May 15.  It would be the sixth extension for the U.N. Mission in Nepal, known as UNMIN.

The fifth extension was meant to be last, but it now appears certain - amid the present turmoil - the country will not meet a May 28 deadline to promulgate a new constitution and move the rest of the former Maoist fighters either into the Army or back into society.

Nepalese U.N. Ambassador Gyan Chandra Acharya, speaking to the U.N. Security Council, has requested a four-month extension.  He says Nepal needs to build on the momentum on what has been achieved since the 2006 peace accord.

"It is for this reason and also as we are at an important juncture of the peace process, the government of Nepal has decided to seek the extension of UNMIN's mandate," he said.

The Maoists have a list of demands, including the resignation of the prime minister, to clear the way for a national unity government.  The previous prime minister and Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, also known as Prachanda, has told VOA News he will return as prime minister.

Members of the governing coalition tell VOA the Maoists must first end the crippling strike, before Mr. Nepal will step aside.

Speaking at the United Nations Security Council session, the world body's special envoy to Nepal, Karin Landgren, noted the fragile state of the peace accord.

"With the strong encouragement of all its supporters Nepal's political parties can and must pull the peace process back from its present disarray and animosity," said Landgren.

The 250-member special U.N. mission was established in 2006 after the seven-party government alliance and the Maoists requested the world body's assistance to oversee elections and the implementation of the peace process.

Among its most important tasks:  supervising nearly 20,000 former rebels who are in seven camps and round-the-clock monitoring of the storage areas for their weapons.

The U.N. mission also monitors the Nepal Army's barracks in the capital.

The Nepali Congress Party, the second largest behind the Maoists in the parliament, objects to UNMIN continuing its oversight of the army cantonment.  But that role is expected to continue under an extension.

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