15 governments condemn Maoist attack on US envoy


Kathmandu : An attack by Maoists on the US envoy to Nepal has ignited condemnations from 15 countries that have urged the government to ensure the safety of foreign diplomats.

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Representatives of the 15 countries, including some of Nepal's biggest donors the US, European Union, Japan and India, signed a statement saying the security and safety of foreign diplomats must be assured.

However, China, which in the past supported King Gyanendra's coup and now has stepped up overtures to the new government, was not a signatory.

The other countries that condemned the attack included Israel, Malaysia, France, Germany, Australia, Thailand, Finland, Denmark and South Korea.

The diplomatic rap came after US ambassador to Nepal James Francis Moriarty got stoned May 25 while travelling to eastern Nepal, where the Bhutanese refugee camps are located.

The Diplomatic Corps of Nepal said it was deeply concerned by the recent upsurge in "security incidents that have threatened foreign diplomats or otherwise impeded their work in the country.

"We condemn any and all attempts to harm, threaten or interfere with foreign diplomats working in Nepal," the statement said. "Targeting or threatening diplomats in Nepal on their countries' official business is unacceptable."

Besides asking all political groups and activists to respect the rule of law and abjure violence, the countries also reminded Nepal's eight-party government, which includes the Maoists, to ensure the security and safety of diplomats.

On May 25, Moriarty, accompanied by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative in Nepal Abraham Abraham, was returning from the Beldangi refugee camp in Jhapa district where he had gone to explain to the camp residents the details of the US offer to provide a new home and life to them on American soil.

The US offer is being opposed by a section of the refugees, who want to return home to Bhutan. They feel that if a large number of their peers go to the US, the pressure on Bhutan to take its evicted citizens back would lessen.

While there is growing tension in the Bhutanese camps over the offer, a militant youth wing of the Maoists, the Young Communist League (YCL), attacked the US envoy with stones outside the refugee camps.

The incident has left Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's government red-faced since the Maoist Party is now a leading partner in the ruling coalition.

Though YCL has been on a rampage frequently, in violation of the peace pact the rebels signed with the government last year, little action has been taken against them.

Following the attack on the US envoy, police have so far arrested and charged only four rebel cadres when, according to Nepal's state media, about 40 to 50 of them were involved in the stone throwing incident.

The attack has severely dented Nepal's image and caused Washington to express doubts about the ongoing peace process.

The US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, Barry R. Lowenkron, who was on a four-day visit to Nepal this week, expressed concerns about YCL's activities to Koirala as well as Foreign Minister Shahana Pradhan and Speaker Subhash Chandra Nembang.

The last time the Diplomatic Corps had administered a warning to the Nepal government was during King Gyanendra's 15-month regime when telephone lines were disconnected.