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Friday, 1 December, 2000, 18:53 GMT
US appeal over Bhutan refugees

By Sushil Sharma in Kathmandu

A senior US official has urged Nepal and Bhutan to work for a speedy resolution of the Bhutanese refugee problem.

The US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, Karl Inderfurth, expressed the hope that the two countries would reach an agreement at the next ministerial talks later this month.

The Nepali-speaking migrants fled, or left southern Bhutan, over the last 10 years, and now number 100,000.

Mr Inderfurth arrived in Nepal on Friday on the third leg of his four-nation South Asian tour.

Mr Inderfurth is accompanied by the Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees and Migration, Julia Taft.

The two US officials met the Nepalese Prime Minister, Girija Prasad Koirala, and other officials.

Mr Inderfurth said that the United States attached great importance to the early resolution of the refugee problem.

He told a news conference in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, that the Bhutanese refugee problem is one of the unfinished issues on the agenda of the outgoing Clinton administration.

New proposal

Speaking to journalists later, Ms Taft said that she had presented a new proposal for verifying that nationality of refugees allowed back into Bhutan.

She said that Nepal has endorsed it and hoped that Bhutan would also respond positively.

Both US officials will leave Nepal for Bhutan on Monday.

The talks between Nepal and Bhutan on repatriation of the refugees have failed due to the differences on the method of verification of the refugees.

Nepal says all 1,000 refugees living in camps in eastern Nepal are Bhutanese and that they have the right to return home.

Bhutan says only some of the refugees are genuine Bhutanese citizens, and refuses to take back any others.

Many of the refugees say they were forcibly driven out of Bhutan.

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See also:

22 Nov 00 | South Asia
Bhutanese despair in exile
25 May 00 | South Asia
Bhutan refugee talks deadlocked
04 May 00 | South Asia
UN hopeful on Bhutan refugees
24 Apr 00 | South Asia
Bhutan crticised over Nepalese refugees
10 Jan 00 | South Asia
Return of Bhutanese refugees demanded
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