US puts Nepal’s Maoists under scanner to review terror tag

May 6th, 2008 - 1:03 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, May 6 (IANS) Washington has put Nepal’s Maoist party under the scanner to decide if it should still be banned as a terrorist organisation in the US, after the once underground party emerged as the largest in last month’s historic election and announced it would lead the new government. “We, here in the (US) Embassy (in Kathmandu), will be working with our US government colleagues in Washington to determine if the current designation of the CPN-Maoists as a terrorist body on the Terrorist Exclusion list and Specially Designated Nationals list should be continued,” an American Embassy official in Kathmandu told IANS Tuesday.

The official reaction came after Nepal’s media reported Tuesday that the Bush administration was readying to remove the Maoists from its watchlist of terror organisations as well as withdraw the negative travel advisory on Nepal that asked American citizens to be alert for trouble while visiting the Himalayan nation.

The reports were triggered by remarks made by the US political and economy chief at the US Embassy, Williams S. Martin, at an interaction with officials of Nepali business pressure group Nepal Chambers of Commerce in the capital Monday.

“Martin informed that the US government had been reviewing its policy towards Nepal and was doing the necessary homework to remove the CPN-M from its terrorist list and remove Nepal from the negative travel advisory,” Nepal’s official daily, the Rising Nepal, said Tuesday.

However, the embassy said the official had been misquoted and his comments taken out of context.

The embassy said the Maoists will be watched closely to see if they had renounced violence to achieve political gains.

Before she left for the US on May 1 for consultations with her government, US Ambassador to Nepal Nancy Powell had said the decision - whether to lift the terror tag - was likely to take some time.

“In the meantime, we hope that the Maoists will show respect for democratic norms,” Powell said.

Though the ambassador met Maoist chief Prachanda on May 1, making it the first time the US had formal contacts with an organisation it still considered as a terrorist one. Though the US accepted the April poll verdict that favoured the Maoists, Washington remains doubtful about the former guerrillas.

“Although there were violations of the code of conduct by supporters from all major parties, the bulk of them appear to have been committed by Maoists,” Powell said, in contradiction to former US president Jimmy Carter’s statement that the Maoists had been more the victims of violence in the run-up to the April 10 election than the aggressors.

However, the US would continue its assistance to Nepal.

“Any changes in policy will depend on the attitude of the new government towards both our programming and maintenance of democratic norms,” Powell said.

Asked if the US feared a Maoist-led government would attempt to usher in a Stalinist regime, like the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, Powell said the Maoist leaders had assured the Nepali public and the international community that they would respect democratic norms.

“We, here at the embassy, will be monitoring developments closely, particularly to ensure that the human rights of all Nepalis, including security of person, are respected,” she said. “We will also be closely following issues involving the ability of the media to report freely and of the parties to engage in political activities in all parts of the country.”

While the Maoists, after winning the election, have indicated they would like better ties with the US, their sternest critic Washington on its part has been forced to review its Nepal policy due to the strategic importance of the country in South Asia.

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