Nepal's Parliament Debates US Aid Grant Amid Fierce Protests

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) -- Nepal's government presented a contentious half-billion dollar aid grant from the United States for approval in Parliament on Sunday, triggering a fresh round of violent clashes between protesters and police outside the legislature.

Hundreds of protesters tried to push through barbed wire barricades and pelted riot police with stones. Police beat them with bamboo batons, fired tear gar and water canons, leaving injured on both sides.

Opposition to the aid grant comes mainly from two of the Communist parties that are part of the coalition government. They claim the conditions in the grant agreement will prevail over Nepal's laws and threaten the country's sovereignty. They say it's part of Washington's Indo-Pacific strategy, which has military components that could bring American soldiers to Nepal.

U.S. officials have spoken to Nepalese leaders recently to assure that the grant concerns only Nepal's development. The money is meant to be used for the construction of power transmission lines and improvement of roads in the Himalayan nation.

Inside Parliament, government Minister Gyanendra Bahadur Karki presented the grant proposal while several lawmakers chanted slogans opposing the measure. A thick line of security personnel blocked the protesting members from approaching the minister.

The debate is expected to last several days before the grant agreement is put to a vote. The discussion was originally planned for last Wednesday but disagreements among political parties and clashes with police outside Parliament led to it being postponed.