US asks Nepal Maoists to end or suspend strike

Nepal`s ruling parties have failed to persuade the Maoists to withdraw their indefinite strike.

Kathmandu: With Nepal`s ruling parties failing to persuade the Maoists to withdraw their indefinite strike, the US has asked the former guerrillas to end or suspend their protests as the Himalayan republic wilted for the sixth consecutive day on Friday and a constitutional crisis stood only three weeks away.

"The Maoist-imposed strike in Nepal is creating serious hardships for the people of Nepal and the risk of dangerous confrontation is growing," Robert O Blake, the US Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, said in a statement issued on Friday.

"We call on the Maoists to end or suspend their strike and ease these hardships."

Violence erupted countrywide on Thursday between Maoist protesters, vigilantes and general public opposing the strike. The government clamped curfew in three tense districts outside Kathmandu.

Amidst fears of greater turbulence if the stalemate continued, the US official urged both the Maoists and the embattled government to exercise restraint and "good judgment" to prevent the outbreak of violence.

"We continue to believe that the only sustainable answer lies in the ongoing political dialogue," Blake said. "We call on all of Nepal`s political leaders to reach agreement on the issues that have impeded the completion of Nepal`s new constitution and the full implementation of the comprehensive peace agreement."

However, even on Friday, the sixth day of the general strike that has paralysed the government, transport vanished from roads, shops and educational institutions were closed and there were raised fears of food, fuel and medicine scarcity as the Maoists remained at loggerheads with the ruling parties.

The former guerrillas have pledged to continue the strike till Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal resigns.

Nepal, on the other hand, is challenging the Maoists to remove him constitutionally by garnering a majority in Parliament, if they can.

Nearly a dozen rounds of talks have failed to make any headway even as the country faces an unprecedented crisis from May 28 midnight unless a new Constitution comes into effect.

If the deadline fails, Parliament will be dissolved automatically, leading to the end of the government as well.

The government needs to amend the Constitution and extend the deadline to avert the crisis. However, an amendment is impossible unless the Maoists, the largest party in Parliament, agree.

"As the May 28 deadline for the completion of the Constitution nears, we hope to see Nepal`s political parties act with dispatch and maximum flexibility to resolve their remaining differences," Blake said, adding that the US and others in the international community were ready to assist in any way they could.

The ambassadors of several European states have already given the Prime Minister a weekend deadline to iron out the differences.

Using strong language, the French Ambassador to Nepal, Gilles-Henri Garault, said Nepal`s political parties were wasting time and opportunity and called it "stupidity".


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