US shifts policy to open dialogue with Nepalese Maoists

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Washington, May 30 (UNI) In a major policy change, the Bush administration has begun dialogue with Nepal's Communist Party (Maoists) but without removing the former militant outfit from the US terrorist list that bars its leaders from travelling to the United States.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Evan Feigenbaum during his recent visit to the Kathmandu met country's top Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda who is likely to head the new government.

Talking to newsmen here yesterday, Feigenbaum attributed the US policy shift to the Maoists participation in the country's comprehensive peace accord and last month's Assembly elections, both of which had Washington's backing.

He, however, declined to spell out the next step, saying "what will happen going forward, I do not know. We will have to see. They are on the (US terrorism) list. They remain on the list for the moment." Earlier, the United States had avoided political contacts with the former guerrilla group because of its reliance on violence to achieve political ends.

Noting that the Maoists have emerged as the largest party in the elections, Feigenbaum and said, "our role, as we define it in Nepal, is to encourage the various parties to embrace what we think is a common vision of a stable, democratic and prospering Nepal." "And so we thought that our own role in encouraging that was best served by our making contact, in this case by Nancy [Powell], and by me. So we took that policy decision," he said Feigenbaum explained that the Maoist group is not on the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations but it figures on two other US terrorism lists that bar American financial dealings with such groups and disallows its members from visiting the United States. He declined to speculate if the dialogue begun with the Maoists will lead to their removal from the lists.

Feigenbaum, during his stay in Nepal, met with Prime Minister Girija Koirala and the leaders of Nepal's four largest parties (Communist Party of Nepal - Maoist, Nepali Congress, Communist Party of Nepal - United Marxist-Leninist, and Madhesi People's Rights Forum) to discuss "the formation of a new interim government, a need for the end of political violence, and efforts to craft a new democratic constitution." UNI XC NC GC0724

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