Nepal Maoists were never called a terrorist outfit: US

May 15th, 2008 - 1:28 pm ICT by admin  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, May 15 (IANS) The US now says Nepal’s Maoist party had never been designated a “foreign terrorist organisation” and the basis of its relations with the new government in Nepal will depend on the actions of individuals there. “First of all, the Maoists in Nepal never have been a ‘foreign terrorist organisation,’ as designated. That is one category under law,” State Department spokesperson Tom Casey said, indicating a rethink in Washington’s Nepal policy following the once underground party’s victory in last month’s elections there.

“They have, however, been on the ‘terrorist exclusion list’. That is something that applies to consular issues, visas and other kinds of matters,” he told reporters Wednesday, for the first time making a subtle distinction between the two categories.

“You have two separate issues here,” he said when asked to comment on Washington’s position with the former guerrillas now poised to head the new Nepalese government. “But you know, ultimately, the basis of our relations with the government of Nepal will be based on the actions of the individuals there.”

The spokesperson acknowledged that US Ambassador to Nepal Nancy Powell had met Communist Party of Nepal Maoist (CPN-Maoist) chief Prachanda May 1. But this first formal US contact with a party still on US “terrorist” list, he said, was essentially intended to get an assurance that US humanitarian programmes will continue.

“That meeting was principally to focus on and to gain assurances that the humanitarian programmes that we have in Nepal, which are focused through non-governmental organisations rather than the government, would, in fact, be honoured and not interfered with.

“We were pleased to get a response that they did not intend to do anything to block or otherwise obstruct these programmes,” Casey said. “But you know, ultimately, the basis of our relations with the government of Nepal will be based on the actions of the individuals there.”

“Whether or not the legal issues involved and the changes that have occurred in the government there are such that it would warrant a change in the status of that party on the terrorism exclusion list is, again…something you can get a lot of lawyers in the room together and argue about,” he said.

Though the US accepted the April poll verdict that favoured the Maoists in Nepal, Washington remains doubtful about the former guerrillas.

Wednesday’s statement making a distinction between a ‘foreign terrorist organisation’ and a ‘terrorist exclusion list’ is indicative of a movement towards what a senior US official recently described as “legitimate reconciliation and reintegration politically” in Nepal after the Maoists’ election victory.

“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,” said Dell L. Dailey, coordinator of the Office for Counter-Terrorism.

“And there are places where that’s taking place already,” he said, briefing reporters on the State Department’s annual terrorism report. “It is taking place in Nepal, although it’s had some ups and downs.”

“But we prefer a legitimate reconciliation and reintegration politically long before we go after and try and do a coordinated, integrated, with host nation military action,” he said when asked how the US planned to deal with the new situation in Nepal.

Dailey’s remarks were the first indication of a US rethink of its Nepal policy following the Maoists’ election victory. Other officials too have hinted at the possibility of a review, but have declined to spell it out in so many words.

Washington still regards the CPN-Maoist as a terrorist group although the group formally laid down weapons in 2006 and joined Nepal’s interim coalition government last year. Officials have pointed to “legal hurdles” in taking the Maoists off the list.

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