Ameet Dhakal

Pranab hands over Manmohan's invitation to Koirala to attend SAARC meet

KATHMANDU: Minister for External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee said here on Sunday that the entry of Maoist rebels into Nepal's Government following a peace deal ``would encourage the extremists and the Maoists in other areas to join the national mainstream of politics.''

Asked at a press conference here why he did not meet the Maoist leaders and whether he considered them "untouchables," Mr. Mukherjee said, "It's not a question of untouchables. We have welcomed the decision of the Maoists to join the mainstream of the national politics and it is a very wise decision ... Once the Maoists join the Government there is no question of not meeting them."

On the interim Nepalese constitution that has transferred all powers of the King to the Prime Minister, Mr. Mukherjee said: "We are not to make any comment. It is for the people and political parties of Nepal to decide what type of constitution they will have."

Asked about the alleged activities of Pakistan's ISI in Nepal, he said: "So far as ISI activities are concerned and availability of fake currency are concerned, these are the issues we too take seriously and take it to the appropriate authority ... Whatever preventive measures are required from our side to check these undesirable developments [we will take them]."

Mr. Mukherjee said New Delhi was always ready to discuss the review of the 1950 Indo-Nepal treaty.

On the issue of Bhutanese refugees, he said, "We have always encouraged both Nepalese and Bhutanese Governments to engage in bilateral talks to resolve the issue."

Mr. Mukherjee, who returned to New Delhi later in the day, had come to Nepal primarily to hand over Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's invitation to Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala to attend the 14th SAARC Summit in New Delhi in April 2007.

Besides Mr. Koirala, Mr. Mukherjee met his Nepal counterpart, Khadga Prasad Oli, the former Prime Minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, and CPN-UML general secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal.

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