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US Says Nepal Aid at Risk Unless Democracy Restored

The United States says millions of aid dollars could be suspended unless Nepal's King Gyanendra ends his crackdown on the country's democratic institutions within 100 days. The U.S. ambassador to Nepal issued the warning after the king took over the government last week.

The United States is warning Nepal King Gyanendra to reverse his decision last week to take over the government for three years, impose total censorship, cut communications and jail political leaders.

Friday, U.S. Ambassador to Nepal James Moriarty said King Gyanendra has promised privately to restore democratic freedoms within 100 days.

"The king has been saying that they need 3 months - 100 days - to straighten some of this stuff out. And we would certainly expect him to be addressing these questions within that time-frame," said Mr. Moriarty. " The restoration of constitutional liberties, freeing of the detainees, and the beginning of process of reaching out to the parties."

Speaking to reporters in Kathmandu, Ambassador Moriarty says the king must act within that time-frame or lose millions of dollars in U.S. military and humanitarian aid.

"I think it's at risk'" he said. "I would hope that much of what we do which saves lives here, for example - giving Vitamin A to three year-olds so that they won't die before they reach age 5 - will continue, but frankly I think everything's at risk right now."

In the past two years, the United States has provided more than $20 million in assistance to the Nepalese Army, primarily in weapons and training programs to help it combat a nine-year communist insurgency, which has killed more than 11,000 people.

The king has justified his government takeover, in part, saying it is needed to better combat the Maoist rebels. His says political infighting has paralyzed the government in both pursuing peace and consolidating democracy in Nepal.

There was no immediate reaction from Nepal's human rights community to the new 100-day deadline. Rights workers say scores of activists are under arrest or have gone into hiding.

But one student leader, who asked not to be named, says the international community has taken too long to react to the King's moves. "Students wonder why the international community are still are waiting. It's not necessary to wait," he said. "We want the whole community to support us, for the sake of democracy, we are hoping."

Students say police are harassing them on university campuses and at their homes, in search of anyone who may be supporting political parties or working against the king.