No undue US pressure on Nepal, Powell

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Kathmandu, Sep 17 (UNI) Denying putting any undue pressure on Nepal, the United States has asserted that assistance and diplomatic efforts by Washington were to ensure that elections to constituent assembly in the Himalayan nation were held on time.

''My sense is that all of Nepal's friends are trying to support these elections, support the transition...And the provision of assistance and ideas should not be seen as infringement on sovereignty rather a desire to help make sure that the process succeeds,'' US Ambassador to Nepal Nancy J Powell said in an interview to The Kathmandu Post.

''...that is a misperception on the part of people,'' she added.

She said it will be a major ''disappointment'' if the elections were postponed ''yet again'' while pointing out that security concerns, gear up campaign strategies and procedural issues like demarcation of constituencies were the major hurdles in holding elections in the country.

Ms Powell said the commitment to the electoral process by the parties that are going to participate will be crucial for its success.

''The key thing is the commitment by the parties that are going to participate. I am told 61 parties are participating. I think this is the latest number that they are going to the poll,'' she said.

She suggested that to avoid any further delay in polls measures like holding by-election in some areas due to flood or security concerns and handling constituencies in a better way could be taken.

Talking about the Maoists, the new US Ambassador to the Himalayan nation said it will take some time for her to ''understand what the Maoists' priorities are and what their programme is''.

''There seems to be a great deal of contradictions. It seems they are speaking to different audiences with different messages,'' she said.

Ms Powell pointed out that Washington was still to guage whether the Maoists' commitment to mainstream politics was genuine or not, while referring to violence in the tarai region and intimidation of candidates during campaigning.

Talking about the US engagement in Nepal, the top diplomat said programmes undertaken through US assistance have helped increase life expectancy and survival rate of children, vaccination campaigns, education programmes, exchange programmes for Nepali scholars in US institutions.

On the proposed resettlement of more than 60,000 Bhutanese refugees, Ms Powell said the UNHCR, the US government and other countries that have been working at resettlement option recognize three durable solutions.

''We look at the resettlement of the refugees in the countries which have taken up the issue, repatriation to the country where they came back from or resettlement. We are recognising that the international norm is all three solutions to take place.'' UNI

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