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Dahal backs Clinton in race

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KATMANDU, Nepal — Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has picked up an unusual endorsement in her bid for the presidency — the leader of Nepal's Maoist Party and most likely Nepal's first democratically elected head of state.

Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who led a decadelong insurgency against Nepal's monarchy under the nom-de-guerre Prachanda, gave a quasi- endorsement to Mrs. Clinton during an interview with The Washington Times.

When asked whether he was following the American election campaign, and if so, what was his preference, Mr. Dahal said he would like to see the Democrats take over the White House.

"I think the victory of the Democratic Party will do good for America. For some unexplained reason — I can't say why — I'd like to see Hillary Clinton win the election. My preference for her may be because of my own struggle here in Nepal to liberate and empower women."

The interview, conducted on Sunday, in Nepalese and without a translator, lasted about 20 minutes. It took place at Mr. Dahal's Katmandu home, which was flanked by soldiers from Mr. Dahal's Maoist Party and Nepalese army soldiers.

The two forces, which fought against each other in the rugged Himalayan kingdom, are expected to eventually merge.

But first, a Constituent Assembly will convene to write a new constitution and abolish the nation's 240-year-old monarchy, possibly later this month.

It was obvious that Mr. Dahal had been following events in the United States and was not hesitant to express his opinions on American politics and policy.

When asked what advice he would give President Bush if the two should meet, he said:

"I will ask him to review his global policies. I will tell him that he has not done good for peace and humanity."

Asked whether the term "U.S. imperialism" would be removed from the Maoists' official vocabulary, he was a bit more circumspect:

"I told the ambassador that our ideological differences will continue despite our interest in diplomatic relations."

Mr. Dahal was referring to a meeting May 1 . U.S. Ambassador Nancy Powell came to his home before flying to Washington the next day for consultations on whether to remove the Maoists from the official U.S. list of terrorist groups.

The U.S. Embassy has said little about the meeting, other than issuing a press release confirming the session had taken place.

It said Ms. Powell sought assurances that existing agreements on U.S. aid to the impoverished country would be honored, and the Maoists would remain part of the political process.

Mr. Dahal described Ms. Powell's visit as "extremely positive."

He said he told the American ambassador that his party "would remain committed to multiparty democracy."

The former rebels, who began the Maoist "people's war" in the mid-1990s , agreed to put down their arms and enter politics a decade later.

The Maoists defied expectations by winning the most seats in April 10 elections — 220 seats in a 601-member assembly that will rewrite the Constitution to bring lasting stability to the impoverished Himalayan country after a war that took an estimated 13,000 lives.

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