'We will not hinder US humanitarian prog'

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Washington, May 15: The Maoists in Nepal have assured the Bush Administration that they do not intend ''to do anything to block or otherwise obstruct'' the United States' humanitarian programmes currently in place in the Himalayan nation. State Department Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey, who gave this information in reply to a question yesterday, said US Ambassador Nancy Powel got this assurance when she met Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda two weeks ago in Katmandu.

Casey said, ''that meeting was principally to focus on and to gain assurances that the humanitarian programmes that we have in Nepal, which are focused through nongovernmental 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 programs,'' he said.

''We have many ways in which we are trying to provide support to the people of Nepal, and our principal concern in this meeting was to assure ourselves that the new government was not going to do anything to change or otherwise obstruct those programs,'' Casey said.

He also clarified the US position vis-a-vis the Nepalese Maoist party. The Maoists in Nepal never have been a ''foreign terrorist organisation,'' as designated (by the State Department). That is one category under law. They have, however, been on the ''terrorist exclusion list.'' That is something that applies to consular issues, visas and other kinds of matters.

The US Spokesman, however, said, ''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, to get back to something I said earlier, something you can get a lot of lawyers in the room together and argue about.''

UNI

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