US extends olive branch to ‘terrorist’ Maoists

May 2nd, 2008 - 5:56 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, May 2 (IANS) Finally bowing to the winds of change that swept through Nepal after a historic election last month, the US has proffered a tentative olive branch to the victorious Maoist party it had banned as a terrorist organisation on its own soil, establishing the first official link with the former guerrillas. May Day proved an especially triumphant occasion for the party that had fought a bitter 10-year war against the government and monarchy supported and armed by the US, with American Ambassador to Nepal Nancy Powell holding a secret meeting with Maoist chief Prachanda.

Powell met Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala Thursday morning to express her government’s concern at the show of force against Tibetan protesters in Kathmandu.

While the American embassy in Kathmandu issued a statement to that effect, the mission remained silent about a subsequent meeting between Powell and Prachanda at the latter’s residence.

The meeting, organised at a short notice, caused the former rebels to quickly reshuffle their programme for the day.

Prachanda was scheduled to address a May Day rally of the trade union wing of the Maoists attended by hundreds of people. Maoist Minister for Information and Communications Krishna Bahadur Mahara took his place as the communist supremo held his first meeting with the American envoy.

The US embassy finally acknowledged the visit Friday, after the envoy left for consultations with her government in Washington.

Issuing a statement, the US embassy said Powell met “CPN-M chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal to discuss the outcome of the April 10 elections, CPN-M plans for the Constituent Assembly, and the future of US-Nepal relations”.

“This was their first meeting,” the statement added. “The meeting occurred in advance of Powell’s return to the United States for consultations on US-Nepal relations.”

The American envoy briefed Prachanda, who is staking his claim as the new prime minister of Nepal, on the current US government assistance to Nepal, designed to help create “a more prosperous, democratic, and stable Nepal”.

She also sought his assurances that the new government headed by the Maoists would respect current donor agreements and ensure the safety of those implementing them.

“She encouraged him to ensure that all Maoist organizations illustrate their commitment to the political process through their words and actions,” the statement said.

The thaw came after Washington this week indicated that there could be a reconciliation with the Maoists.

“In any terrorist organisation or any terrorist situation, if there is a way for reconciliation legally and lawfully through the political system, obviously we prefer that,” Del L. Dailey, coordinator of the Office for Counter-Terrorism, said in Washington while briefing reporters on the State Department’s annual terrorism report.

The new report says there were no significant acts of terrorism in Nepal in 2007 - the year the former guerrillas joined the coalition government after signing a peace pact though it finds the Maoists still guilty of violence, extortion and abductions.

Powell’s meeting with Prachanda comes after former US president Jimmy Carter, who was in Nepal to observe the April 10 election, advised the US government to establish communication links with the Maoists and “do business” with them.

The US capitulation marks a diplomatic triumph for the Maoists and consolidates their claim to the leadership of the new government.

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