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Nepal: UN envoy hails planned political talks, voices concern at reported attacks

12 February 2007 The United Nations envoy in Nepal today warmly welcomed planned talks between the Government, the country’s indigenous peoples and the southern Nepalese who live in the dispute-wracked Terai region, but he also expressed deep concern at reports of recent attacks against political parties in the west of the country.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative, Ian Martin, who heads the UN Political Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), also reiterated the importance of all Nepalese society being involved in this year’s planned elections, as the Himalayan country seeks to build on last year’s historic peace deal with the Maoists aimed at ending 10 years of civil war.

“I am pleased to begin today by welcoming the dialogue that is to take place between the Government team and representatives not only of Madhesi organizations but also of Janajatis,” he said in a press statement, referring respectively to the southern Nepalese or Madhesis and the country’s indigenous people.

“The United Nations has stressed the importance of all groups, including women and Dalits (low-cast Hindus) as well as Madhesis and Janajatis, feeling that they will be adequately represented in the historic decisions to be made about the future of Nepal through the Constituent Assembly,” he said, calling on all concerned to promote these legitimate demands through peaceful dialogue.

Mr. Martin said that despite the recent disturbances in the Terai, UNMIN remained focused on its core task of managing the arms belonging to the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) and the Government, as stipulated in last November’s peace deal between the two sides. In particular, he said he was satisfied with the monitoring of weapons at Kailali and Surkhet in the west, although there was still work to do.

“During this week we will test the installation of 24-hour closed-circuit television surveillance,” he noted. “An urgent issue is the safe disposal or storage of improvised explosive devices – mostly socket bombs – as well as the dismantling of Nepal Army minefields, and we now have two UN experts advising us and beginning discussions with the parties about how to proceed.”

Mr. Martin said he expected the number of UN monitors to climb to 66 by the end of this week from the current 48, adding that more equipment would also be arriving soon. He stressed that the UN wanted to see a peaceful, inclusive election, and expressed concern at reports of some voter rolls being seized and of attacks on two political parties in western Nepal.

“The United Nations can only regard an electoral process as credible if people of all opinions are able to organize and campaign free of violence or intimidation,” he said. “I am therefore extremely concerned at reports of attacks on two political parties seeking to exercise their rights in Lamjung and Tanahun Districts, respectively, on Saturday.”

The envoy said UNMIN and OHCHR (the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) will be closely monitoring the extent to which all parties respect the rights of others. At the same time, he called on them “to agree on an effective independent national monitoring body with which we can work.”

The Security Council established UNMIN last month, giving it a 12-month mandate that can be terminated or extended depending on a request from the Government. So far the initial team of monitors have been registering and storing weapons of the former combatants, and have been supported by an Interim Task Force – composed of Nepali ex-servicemen from the Indian and British armies – pending full deployment of the UN mission.



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