Boucher ignores King in quickfire Nepal trip

The top US envoy met the newly-appointed PM, the head of the army and political leaders but stayed away from the royal palace.

india Updated: May 03, 2006 11:07 IST

A top US diplomat on Wednesday ignored Nepal's humbled monarch in a quickfire series of meetings here with the country's new power brokers.

Richard Boucher, a senior state department official, met the newly-appointed prime minister, the head of the army and political leaders but stayed away from the royal palace after a popular revolt forced King Gyanendra to back down after seizing absolute power 15 months ago.

"I had a limited amount of time in Nepal. The question before us was how best to spend my time and I wanted to see the political parties, I wanted to see the political leaders, I wanted to see the people in whose hands decisions of the future of this country now rest," Boucher told journalists before heading to New Delhi on Wednesday.

High-ranking diplomats from several countries had visited the king in line with traditonal protocol during his 14-month direct rule of the Himalayan nation.

Boucher, the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, said it was a "hopeful" moment for Nepal after weeks of street protests ended when Gyanendra handed power back to the politicians.

Gyanendra sacked his government in February 2005 claiming it was corrupt and had failed to quell a Maoist rebellion that has raged for a decade and left more than 12,500 people dead.

But an alliance of Maoist rebels and political parties led a campaign against the king, forcing him to recall parliament after a break of four years. Legislators immediately embarked on plans to cut the king's powers.

Boucher was critical of the king's role during his period of absolute control, which saw media censored, hundreds of opposition activists jailed and prompted waves of strident international criticism.

"The king through his actions made it very, very difficult for the people of Nepal and the leaders of political parties to work with him," he said, adding the United States was ready to help but did not mention a financial package.

He said the Maoists would remain on the US terror list despite plans by the new interim government to begin peace talks with the rebels.

"It's not a question of what they say in the press or what they do temporarily, its when they stop the terrorist behaviour," Boucher, who arrived in Kathmandu on Tuesday, told journalists at the US ambassador's residence.

"The only way to be sure of that is for them to lay down their arms and join the political process."

First Published: May 03, 2006 11:07 IST