November 4, 2009 / 12:11 PM / 8 years ago

Nepal Maoists call off airport closure

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal’s Maoist ex-rebels have called off a plan to close the country’s only international airport but will continue other demonstrations, their leader said late on Tuesday after pressure from Western diplomats.

Former Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal addresses new members of his Unified Communist Party of Nepal in Kathmandu June 14, 2009. REUTERS/Shruti Shrestha/Files

The nascent Himalayan republic has been in turmoil since the Maoists quit the government in May in a conflict with the president over the firing of the country’s army chief.

Since then they have disrupted parliamentary proceedings, held up the budget and were planning to force the closure of Nepal’s main airport and block all roads to Kathmandu next week.

“We have called off the airport closure,” Maoist chief Prachanda said on state television late on Tuesday.

The comments came hours after several diplomats from the European Union countries, the United States and Russia met Prachanda and asked him to stop the protests saying they would hit tourism which accounts for nearly four percent of Nepal’s GDP and the economy.

The Maoists say they had been wrongly forced out of office and are demanding that the president apologise and rescind his decision reversing the army chief’s sacking.

They plan to picket Singha Durbar complex that houses the prime minister’s office next week.

The United Nations human rights agency has called for effective measures to ensure that the human rights of all individuals are protected and respected during the protests.

The Maoists scored a surprise victory in last year’s elections after they joined the political mainstream under a 2006 peace deal that ended a decade-long civil war that killed more than 13,000 people. (Reporting by Gopal Sharma)

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