Risks growing in Nepal, warns top UN envoy



Risks growing in Nepal, warns top UN envoy  Kathmandu: With less than 10 days left before the UN ends its peace mission in Nepal, there is little progress on the critical issues of forming a new government and disbanding nearly 20,000 Maoist fighters while the risks are growing, a top UN envoy warned.

At a crucial meeting of the UN Security Council in New York to decide its position on Nepal, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Nepal representative Karin Landgren, in her final briefing as head of the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), painted a bleak picture of the situation in the Himalayan republic.

"...The risks have clearly grown," Landgren said.

"There have at times been fears among many Nepalis over the prospect of a 'peoples' revolt', which remains an explicit Maoist threat; of the president stepping in...; or of an Army-backed coup. Any such measures would sorely threaten peace and Nepal's fragile democracy."

UNMIN is due to leave the country January 15. Its activities included monitoring the management of arms and armed personnel of the Nepal and Maoist armies.

While the arms monitoring had been "strikingly successful", Landgren said the parties have yet to agree on a monitoring mechanism to replace UNMIN when its mission ends. "It is not clear what will happen after UNMIN withdraws," she added, warning of "a legal void". Nepal's Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal has proposed that the Nepal Army be exempted from monitoring, a proposal rejected by the Maoists.

The crucial issue of disbanding the Maoists' People's Liberation Army remain unresolved.

The ruling parties are refusing to induct more than 5,000 of the PLA in the national Army, especially after revelations that Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda deliberately lied about the strength of the PLA.

The Maoists, however, are demanding en masse induction of the PLA despite earlier agreements in private on a substantially lower number.

The government has failed to suggest a rehabilitation package for the fighters who agree to leave the barracks and lead a civilian life.

There has also been little progress on forming a new government since Madhav Kumar Nepal resigned in June.

The country's Parliament will convene on Sunday after which fresh Prime Ministerial Elections are expected to be held. Sixteen rounds of vote so far failed to elect a new premier due to growing infighting among the parties for power.

"At issue is not merely whether a new government can be formed, but whether Nepal's peace process can move forward without it," Landgren warned, citing growing differences within and mistrust between the major political parties.

"The failure of the peace process to advance has strengthened the hand of those on all sides who deride it as unproductive or far too slow," she said. "Now there is a real risk that the failure of the peace process will become a self-fulfilling prophecy."

Landgren said the peace process can be brought to a close satisfactorily, through the negotiated resolution of outstanding issues.

The option was aborting it, when one or more parties reneged on commitments.

"Setbacks and challenges are inevitable but it is in the interest of the country, the region and the international community as a whole that the peace process be maintained, respected and steered to a proper close," she said.

IANS