Nepal: UN chief calls for early integration of former rebel combatants

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Kathmandu_(dpa) _ Visiting United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Saturday reiterated the need to resolve the issue of former Maoist combatants.

Speaking to the press at the end of his two day visit to Nepal, Ban described the issue to integrate former rebel combatants into the security agencies as one of the most important issues in the peace process.

"The most immediate challenge is to integrate and rehabilitate the former Maoist combatants," the secretary general said. "I also call on the government to move quickly on the formal discharge of minors and disqualified combatants."

His remarks came at a time when Nepalese politicians are increasingly divided over the integration of former rebel fighters into the national army.

Of the original 31,000 Maoist combatants in 28 UN supervised camps across Nepal, only 19,000 passed the rigid verification by United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) that qualified them for government service.

Nearly 4,000 of the disqualified combatants were listed as minors and the rest were recruited after the cease-fire in May 2006.

Despite the disqualification, the majority of the combatants continue to live in the Maoist camps and there are growing calls for their rehabilitation.

Secretary General Ban praised Nepal's peace process but said much still needed to be done.

"I call on all parties to continue to work in the spirit of compromise and cooperation on drafting a new constitution, the future of the Maoist army and other key issues," Ban said.

Ban also called for continued Nepalese support for UN peacekeeping duties around the world.

"The United Nations greatly values Nepal's contribution for peacekeeping operations as well as for continued enhanced support."

Earlier, speaking to Nepalese politicians, Ban said Nepal now faced a difficult process to reconcile with the past violence.

"The difficult process to acknowledge the past human rights abuses, truth about forced disappearances and compensate the victims and the return of the displace people to their homes are key to reconciliation," he said.

During his two day stay in Nepal, Ban met with Nepalese President Ram Baran Yadav, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Foreign Minister Upendra Yadav and other top politicians.

The talks with the Nepalese leaders focused on the peace process, the future of Maoist combatants as well as extension of the terms of UNMIN which expires in two months.

The UN Secretary General is scheduled to leave for Bangladesh on the last leg of his Asian tour later Saturday. dpa kr pw

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