From: Reuters
Published April 29, 2008 12:46 AM

Nepal deports U.S. Everest climber for Tibet banner

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal deported a U.S. national and banned him from climbing in the country for two years, after he was found carrying a pro-Tibet banner on an expedition to the Everest last week, an official said on Tuesday.

Nepal, which regards Tibet as part of China, has restricted access to Mount Everest between May 1 and 10 and posted armed soldiers to discourage protests against the Olympics torch when it is taken to the summit by Chinese authorities next month.

The ascent of Everest is the highlight of a torch parade that has been dogged by protests and counter-protests over Tibet on its journey around all five inhabited continents to raise the curtain on August's Beijing Games.

The Everest flame is separate from the globetrotting torch, which passed through the streets of the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, on Monday and is due to be paraded in Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City on Tuesday.

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Nepal has also asked climbers not to carry any non-essential items on expeditions to the 8,850 meter (29,035 feet) peak, the world's tallest.

But security forces frisking mountaineers at the Everest base camp found a pro-Tibet banner in one of the bags of William Brant Holland. It was not clear what the banner said.

Holland was deported on Monday. Tourism ministry spokesman Prem Kumar Rai said he had also been banned from any climbing in Nepal for two years.

Nepal has seen almost daily anti-China protests which police initially broke up with beatings. But, of late, they have been using little force in the face of criticism from rights groups such as the Amnesty International.

Beijing, a key donor to impoverished Nepal's economic development, has urged Kathmandu to prevent Tibetan protests.

More than 20,000 Tibetans have lived in settlements across mountainous Nepal since fleeing their homeland after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.

(Reporting by Krittivas Mukherjee; Editing by Valerie Lee)

("Countdown to Beijing Olympics" blog at http://blogs.reuters.com/china)

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