UN chief to visit Nepal on Prachanda’s invitation (Lead)

September 30th, 2008 - 4:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Sep 30 (IANS) In a major diplomatic victory for the new Maoist government of Nepal and the ongoing peace process, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is coming to Nepal next month on a two-day visit at the invitation of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda”.Ban would be the second influential world leader to endorse the Maoists after former American president and Nobel peace prize winner Jimmy Carter.

Ban would arrive Oct 30, a jubilant Prachanda told journalists Tuesday on his arrival at the Tribhuvan International Airport here after concluding a 10-day visit to New York to attend the 63rd UN General Assembly.

Prachanda had held bilateral talks with the UN chief Saturday when the invitation was issued and accepted.

Earlier this year, the interim government of prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala had also invited Ban to visit Nepal in April to observe the historic constituent assembly election that began the formal transformation of the Hindu kingdom into a secular federal republic. However, the UN chief did not avail of the invitation.

The UN has a sizeable stake in Nepal’s peace process with its political wing, the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) supervising the arms and armies of the state as well as the Maoists.

Though Nepal’s major parties have ruled out giving a greater role to UNMIN after the “safelanding” of the Maoists from an underground political party to the ruling party that won the last election, the UN is still keen on further involvement.

Prachanda said there was unprecedented international interest in Nepal’s peace process, the new federal republic and the current responsibility of scripting a new constitution in two years.

“I had to concentrate on China, India, the US and other countries to create such an environment,” he said. “The time and situation demanded it.

“Now that it has been accomplished, I will now focus on domestic matters.”

Prachanda, whose party had during its armed war declared US imperialism one of its bitterest foes, regarded his interaction with US President George W. Bush and American officials as one of the biggest achievements of his US trip.

Washington, he said, was positive about his government’s request to remove the terrorist tag it had slapped on the Maoists during the “People’s War”.

“I told Richard Boucher (US Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs) that we had made considerable progress in the peace process and were now the ruling party that had come through an election,” Prachanda said. “You should also change your old mindset.”

The American official, Prachanda said, told him that Washington too was thawing. The meetings with Bush and himself proved that, Boucher told the Maoist chief.

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