September 14, 2015 / 10:25 PM / 3 years ago

U.S. calls for restraint in Nepal constitutional debate

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States called on Monday for security forces to exercise restraint in responding to protests over the drawing up of a new constitution in Nepal and for citizens to avoid violence.

Hindu activists march forward while trying to break through a restricted area near the parliament during a protest rally demanding Nepal to be declared as a Hindu state in the new constitution, in Kathmandu, Nepal September 14, 2015. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

A statement from the U.S. State Department said the new constitution should have the broadest possible support and reflect fundamental rights such as gender equality and basic freedoms.

“We urge citizens to engage through peaceful, non-violent means, and call on the Nepali security forces to exercise restraint in responding to protests,” the statement said.

Thirty people have been killed since a draft constitution was unveiled last month.

Violent protests against it intensified in Nepal’s southern plains last week with demonstrators attacking police who shot dead at least four people.

Nepal, which emerged from civil war in 2006, is in the final stages of preparing a new constitution that would carve the country of 28 million people into seven federal provinces.

Many people in the southern plains bordering India oppose the plan which would split their narrow region and merge the pieces into larger provinces with other ethnic groups.

Proponents of the new constitution say it is needed to increase political stability and boost economic development in the Himalayan nation, still reeling from two devastating earthquakes that killed 8,900 people this year.

Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Andrew Hay

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