EU urges Nepal to seek settlement with rebels

The European Union urged Nepal's king Wednesday to "change direction" in his efforts to defeat communist rebels by seeking a nonviolent solution to the conflict and restoring all civil liberties to citizens. The EU continues to be "concerned by the lack of progress toward a return to democratic government at a time when Nepal faces many challenges," EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said on the first anniversary of King Gyanendra's seizure of absolute power. Solana urged the king to take account of anti-government protests. "There has to be an urgent change of direction to deliver the peace, democracy and other civil liberties," Solana said in a statement.

While the EU "understands the difficulty of the security and humanitarian situation in the face of repeated Maoist atrocities," he said, "it cannot condone the (Nepalese) government's restrictions on the exercise of fundamental rights by the Nepalese people and its failure to engage on a negotiated settlement to the conflict."

The king seized control of the government on Feb. 1, 2005, drawing heavy protest from the country's main political parties and criticism from foreign governments that have urged him to speed moves to restore democracy.

The king said at the time of his takeover that the move was necessary to quell the country's growing rebellion by Maoist rebels and end corruption.

The EU's executive commission last month said it would provide Ђ12 million (US$14.5 million) in aid toward peace talks between the Nepalese government and rebels and to boost human rights there through aid to Nepal's Supreme Court, and by providing legal aid, reports the AP. I.L.

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