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Thursday, 25 May, 2000, 12:59 GMT 13:59 UK
Bhutan refugee talks deadlocked
Bhutanese refugees in Nepal
The refugees live in makeshift camps
By Sushil Sharma in Kathmandu

Talks between the Nepalese and the Bhutanese foreign ministers on resolving the Bhutanese refugee problem have ended without conclusion.

Nepalese Foreign Minister, Chakra Prasad Bastola, said some progress had been made but that certain issues still remained to be sorted out.

Mr Bastola said that Bhutan had asked for a week's time to respond to what he described as some issues of contention but he did not elaborate.

He was speaking to reporters in Kathmandu after returning from a four-day visit to Bhutan, where he held talks with Bhutanese Foreign Minister, Jigme Thinley.


Foreign Minister Chakra Prasad Bastola
Chakra Prasad Bastola has returned from Bhutan
The Thimpu talks between the two countries were held less than a month after the first ever visit to the region by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata.

Ms Ogata expressed optimism about a solution to the 10-year-old problem.

Dispute

But the problem has lingered because of differences between Nepal and Bhutan over methods of verification of the refugees to determine their identity.

Nepal says that all the refugees living in camps in eastern Nepal are Bhutanese citizens, and they have the right to return to their homeland.

Bhutan disagrees and says that it can take back only genuine Bhutanese citizens, who, it believes, number just a few thousand.

About 100,000 ethnic Nepalese refugees who say they are Bhutanese have been living in Nepal for the past 10 years because of alleged ethnic and political repression by the Bhutanese government.

Mr Bastola said that the verification could start in two months, but added that certain issues remained to be resolved.

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See also:

04 May 00 | South Asia
UN hopeful on Bhutan refugees
01 May 00 | South Asia
UN seeks to help Bhutan refugees
10 Jan 00 | South Asia
Return of Bhutanese refugees demanded
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