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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 September, 2004, 14:38 GMT 15:38 UK
Final US volunteers leave Nepal
By Charles Haviland
BBC correspondent in Kathmandu

American centre in Kathmandu
Marxist rebels were accused of bombing the US information centre
The last volunteers of the US Peace Corps have left Nepal after their organisation suspended its operations there because of safety concerns.

The departure of the 84 volunteers had become inevitable after the US state department, which runs the Peace Corps, decided to stop work in Nepal.

Peace Corps volunteers in Nepal have been working in the health, sanitation, teaching, water and forestry fields.

The bombing of a US information centre last week triggered the withdrawal.

No-one was injured in the attack, which was blamed on Maoist rebels.

The rebels did not say they were responsible but their anti-American rhetoric is forthright and they recently demanded that all US companies withdraw from Nepal.

Fortitude and generosity

A Peace Corps official described it as a very sad day after the departure of the remaining volunteers for Bangkok, Thailand.

The ages of the volunteers have ranged from 23 to 78 years old.

The 42-year-old Nepal programme was one of the Peace Corps' oldest and more than 4,000 Americans have volunteered for it overall.

According to one newspaper columnist this week, a decade ago Nepal attracted more return visits from ex-volunteers than any other country.

But, she added, whereas Nepal used to be a place that never turned away guests, now people were wary of strangers and afraid to express opinions even inside their home.

Nonetheless, departing volunteers say they have been overwhelmed by the fortitude and generosity of the Nepalese among whom they worked.

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