Kathmandu, April 24:

The United States ambassador to Nepal, James F Moriarty, whose tenure ends on July 15, still hopes that the Maoists will give up “violence and extortion” and he will get to shake hands with Prachanda.

“I would very much like to shake hands with Pushpa Dahal but that will happen only when the Maoists give up violence and extortion,” Moriarty told The Himalayan Times in an exclusive interview.

Moriarty, who admires the “courage of the Nepali people” and considers his three years in Nepal one of the highlights of his life and career, said he hoped to see “meaningful change in the behaviour by the Maoists.”

The US sees no evidence of the Maoists stopping violence and extortion, said Moriarty. “As long as the Maoists do not end these practices, they cannot be considered a normal political party and the US will continue to treat them as a terrorist organisation.”

Moriarty added, “For free and fair constituent assembly elections the continuing Maoist violence and extortion must stop and the demands for inclusion by traditionally marginalised groups must be addressed.”

On his recent visit to eastern Nepal, he said very few people felt confident that the constituent assembly elections would be free and fair if the Maoists continue their violent acts and if the concerns of marginalised groups were not addressed.

He congratulated Nepali people for their successful and historic efforts on the first anniversary of Jana Andolan II. “Their sacrifices and commitment for democracy were truly inspiring.” He reiterated that the future of the monarchy should be decided by the people of Nepal, and added, “The US respects and will honour the decision of the Nepali people.”

The US provided nearly $50 million as development assistance in 2006 and anticipated giving a similar amount in 2007. “American aid supports peace building, democracy and governance, health programmes, rural road construction, agricultural services, and humanitarian aid. No ministries led by Maoists are receiving US funds directly.”

“We urge all parties involved in Jana Andolan II to meet their commitment to peace and democracy,” stated a press release issued by the American Center.