KATHMANDU Nepal's peace process risks failure with continued wrangling between former Maoist rebels and other political parties, the United Nations warned on Thursday as it prepares to withdraw from the country after four years.
Karin Landgren, who will bring the U.N. Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) to an end on Jan 15, warned that political infighting over assuming the U.N.'s responsibilities meant the failure of the peace process could "become a self-fulfilling prophecy".
"Growing differences within the major political parties add to the mistrust between them, and the failure of the peace process to advance had strengthened the hand of those on all sides who derided it as unproductive," a statement said.
"It's not clear what will happen after UNMIN withdraws," Landgren warned, saying its departure "seems set to create a legal void".
UNMIN came to Nepal in 2007 to monitor a peace deal that ended a civil war between the Maoists and the then royal government, in which more than 16,000 people were killed. The Maoists won the most seats at parliamentary elections in 2008.
But since the end of the war and the abolition of the 239-year old monarchy, Nepal has been in political flux, with the Maoists and other parties bickering over the integration of the former combatants into regular security forces.
"There (has) been little progress on the most critical issues of forming a new government and integrating and rehabilitating Maoist army personnel," the statement added.
Monitoring the peace deal is difficult due to the fragile caretaker government in Kathmandu, following the resignation of Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal in June under pressure from the Maoists, who are unable to form their own government.
The government says a special committee will take over the work of UNMIN. The Maoists want the UN to stay on at least until May, when a constituent assembly is scheduled to complete drafting Nepal's first republician constitution.
"UNMIN must continue for a few months to avoid confusions like who will monitor the armies and arms and how to conclude the peace process," Maoist spokesman Dinanath Sharma said.
"Its departure will create many voids," he said.
(Writing by Henry Foy; Editing by Alistair Scrutton)