Nepal`s peace process at crossroads: UN chief

The UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) is preparing to close on January 15.

Kathmandu: Nepal`s peace process is at crossroads, the head of the United Nations has warned, just two weeks before the planned closure of a UN peace mission in the troubled country.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the lack of progress in the peace process that began when Nepal`s bloody civil war ended more than four years ago was a "growing concern".

"Nepal`s peace process is at a crossroads," Ban said in a report to the UN Security Council published in New York on Thursday.

"The prolonged political deadlock that has hampered progress has become a growing concern for Nepalis and the international community alike as key timelines and deadlines approach in the coming months."

Ban said much had been achieved since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in 2006, ending a decade-long war between Maoist rebels and the state that killed at least 16,000 people.

But he said key tasks had yet to be completed, including the drafting of a new national constitution and the integration of thousands of Maoist former fighters into the state security forces.

His comments came as the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) prepares to close on January 15 after officials complained it had been unfairly dragged into the political battles that have prevented the formation of a new government.

Nepal has been without a fully functioning government for six months after the prime minister resigned in June under pressure from the opposition Maoist party.

Ban blamed the stalemate on deepening rifts among and within Nepal`s rival parties.

"They have in the past made major compromises, and they must soon do the same. None of them can afford to put the entire process and the fruits of their hard work at serious risk," he said.

UNMIN was set up in 2007 with a mandate to monitor the Nepal army and its rival, the Maoist People`s Liberation Army, and their weapons.

It is not yet clear who will fulfil that role when UNMIN leaves. This week, the Maoist party formally requested a six-month extension of UNMIN`s mandate, saying the body was needed until the peace process could be completed.

Karin Landgren, Ban`s representative in Nepal, is due to present the report`s findings to the Security Council in early January.

Bureau Report