July 2, 2006

US undermining Nepal peace process: Maoist chief

By Kamil Zaheer

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - The United States is undermining
Nepal's peace process by warning it could cut aid if Maoist
guerrillas join an interim government without giving up their
weapons first, the rebel's chief said.

"Even now, they are creating an atmosphere of suspicion and
trying to stop a peaceful atmosphere from building up," Maoist
leader Prachanda told state-run Nepal TV late on Saturday.

The U.S. ambassador in Nepal had said earlier that
Washington would not support a government in Kathmandu that
included the rebels if they continued violence in the
countryside despite a two-month truce.

U.S. ambassador James Moriarty said Washington -- a key
donor -- could stop aid to the impoverished country if the
rebels joined an interim government without giving up arms

"If the Maoists continue to use violence and then enter the
government, our law says we can't supply assistance to those
who support (terrorism)," Moriarty told reporters in Kathmandu.

The United States lists the Communist Party of Nepal
(Maoist) as a terrorist organization.

The new government and Maoists are negotiating terms that
will allow the rebels to join an interim government this year
and participate in elections for a special assembly in 2007.

The elected assembly will then decide the country's
political future including the fate of the monarchy.

King Gyanendra was forced to give up absolute power in
April after mass protests against his rule left at least 18
people dead and thousands hurt.

Prachanda said Washington -- which supplied arms to the
Nepali army -- was interfering in the nation's internal

"There is one issue before us: Whether foreigners' words
will prevail over us or whether we will act on the needs of
Nepalis," he said.

About a dozen people have been killed by Maoists or
suspected anti-Maoist vigilantes since May despite the truce.

The United States and the United Nations have blamed the
rebels for most of the violence as well as extortion and
kidnappings in the countryside where they hold sway.


On Saturday, Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula told
Reuters the violence was an "obstacle to the peace process."

The Maoists have proposed their fighters and the army come
under a joint command but live in separate camps.

"When both armies are under one command, then only free and
fair elections to the constituent assembly can happen,"
Prachanda said.

To make a merger easier, he said he was ready to quit his
military command. "Looking at views of the seven-party alliance
and the need of the country, I can leave the post of the
supreme commander of the People's Liberation Army," he said.

The government plans to ask the United Nations to monitor
the arms of the army and the rebels ahead of the elections.

But the rebels want monitoring by Nepalis.

More than 13,000 people have died since the Maoist revolt
aimed at overthrowing the monarchy started in 1996.