KATHMANDU: Visiting US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Robert O Blake on Friday held talks with Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal. He said that Washington was keen on assisting Nepal in restoring lasting peace and drafting the new constitution.

Blake, who is on a two-day visit to Nepal, is the highest-ranking US official to visit the country after the Obama administration took charge.

Rajan Bhattarai, foreign affairs advisor to the PM, told The Himalayan Times that Blake discussed the priority issues with the PM, who in turn apprised him that bringing the ongoing peace process to a logical conclusion and drafting a new constitution on time were the vital tasks that faced the government.

“Short-term and long-term relief packages for the people are on the cards. The government is planning to unveil short-term relief packages within a couple of days,” Bhattarai quoted the PM as saying to the visiting US dignitary.

According to Bhattarai, the PM informed Blake that the Special and Technical panel were working out a modality to rehabilitate over 4,000 minors, who are still living in the cantonments across the nation.

The PM also briefed him about the adjustment and rehabilitation of the UNMIN-verified Maoist combatants, which would be carried out following consultations with other political parties, including the Unified CPN-Maoist.

Blake assured the PM that the US was ready to cooperate with Nepal on strengthening democratic and peace processes, human rights and promulgating the new constitution on time.

“Nepal is one of the important allies of the US in South Asia. The US wants stability and prosperity in Nepal,” Bhattarai quoted Blake as saying.

The US official was curious to learn about the possibility of further extension of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), whose third extension expires in end of July.

The PM said that UNMIN’s tenure would be extended subject to consensus among

parties. The PM urged Blake to give preferential access to Nepali ready made garments in the US markets.

Responding to the request, he said the Trade Bill 2009, which aims to provide duty-free status to textiles and apparel imported from the least developed countries (LDCs), including Nepal, was under consideration in the US Congress.

Earlier, Garment Association of Nepal had requested the PM to raise this issue during the US official’s visit. Blake also met with President Dr Ram Baran Yadav,

ex-PMs GP Koirala and Pushpa Kamal Dahal, UML president Jhala Nath Khanal and MJF chairperson Upendra Yadav. He will hold a press conference tomorrow before he leaves for Bangladesh.