Saturday, May 16, 2015

Koirala turns down British PM’s call to allow in Chinook choppers

Koirala turns down British PM's call to allow in Chinook choppers

KATHMANDU, MAY 15 - Ignoring Britain's high-level diplomatic pursuits, Nepal once again denied on Friday permission for three British helicopters to fly to the country.

With this, the British helicopters will now return home from the Chandigarh Airbase in India where they were staying for the past two weeks waiting clearance from the Nepali side.

Britain had sent three Chinook helicopters to assist Nepal government with the relief distribution. However, Nepal barred their entry to the country saying that the heavy aircraft could damage buildings while landing.

British Prime Minister David Cameron himself had made several telephone calls to Prime Minister Sushil Koirala. Sources said Koirala had ignored them before finally denying the permission.

"Prime Minister Koirala told his British counterpart that there is no need for helicopters as the search, rescue and relief operation has almost come to an end. He instead urged Britain to help in reconstruction and rehabilitation of people affected by the earthquake," said sources at the Prime Minister's Office. A statement from the PMO said Koirala congratulated Cameron for a landslide victory in the recent elections.

British newspapers have reported that Nepal denied entry not due to safety concerns but owing to pressure "exerted on Nepal by China and India that did not want their aid efforts to be overshadowed by countries such as the UK."

"The official line is that they don't want the helicopters to damage already

unstable buildings but the reality is the Chinooks could drop the aid. India and China may have applied pressure on the Nepalis to not allow the planes in because they wanted to be at the forefront of any relief efforts. They wanted to be the first to help," Daily Mail online quoted a source as saying.

Diplomatic relations between Nepal and Britain have soured following the arrest of Colonel Kumar Lama who faces charges of torture in Britain in a case related to the Maoist insurgency.

Source: Kathmandu Post

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