Ban Ki-moon arrives in Nepal


Kathmandu : Marking a major diplomatic victory for Nepal’s Maoist government, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Kathmandu Friday evening on a two-day visit in the course of his four-nation trip to Asia.

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The UN chief is the first international leader to arrive in Nepal since the former communist guerrillas formed the government in August.

His visit sends out the message to the world that the 10-year-old insurgency, that killed over 13,000 people in Nepal, has ended and that the Maoists, once banned as a terrorist organisation, are now a mainstream party that has renounced violence.

Ban, who flew in from New Delhi on a special UN aircraft, was met at the Tribhuvan International Airport by Nepal’s Foreign Minister Upendra Yadav.

After parleys with Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda over the integration of the Maoist guerrilla army, the People’s Liberation Army, with the state army, and the drafting of a new constitution within two years, he would attend a banquet being given in his honour by the premier.

On Saturday, Ban will be flown to northern Nepal in a army helicopter for a view of the spectacular Himalayan peaks, including Mt Everest.

During the day, he will also meet President Ram Baran Yadav, who this year replaced King Gyanendra as head of state, the foreign minister and Jhalanath Khanal, leader of the second largest party in the government, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist.

Ban will also address a special session of the Constituent Assembly and hold a separate meeting with former prime minister and present opposition leader Girija Prasad Koirala.

After a press conference at noon, he will then fly to Lumbini town in Nepal’s southern Terai plains for a guided tour of one of the holiest Buddhist shrines.

The Buddha was born in Lumbini and Ban, a Buddhist, will also visit the temple erected in honour of the Buddha’s mother Maya Devi.