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Nepal PM thanks British actress for Gurkha campaign

NEPAL: Nepal's Prime Minister on Monday thanked Joanna Lumley for bringing "justice" to Gurkha soldiers who served in the British army, as the glamorous actress was feted on her visit to the country.

Madhav Kumar Nepal said all Nepalese people recognised the achievements of the 63-year-old star, who spearheaded a successful campaign for Gurkha veterans and their families to be allowed to settle in Britain.

"I think the Gurkhas have got justice, whether complete or just to some extent I cannot see," he told journalists after meeting Lumley, famous for her role in the television show "Absolutely Fabulous".

"We are all rejoicing over what she has achieved."

Lumley, who arrived in Nepal to a rapturous welcome on Sunday, presented the prime minister with a scarf from Scotland, saying she had heard that the winters were cold in Nepal.

"We are just so proud to be here and to have it recognised at such a high level," she told journalists after the meeting.

"It's just such a tremendous privilege to be here today consolidating the bond (between Britain and Nepal)."

Later Monday, Lumley will meet the country's president and address a rally at Kathmandu City Hall before laying a wreath at a Gurkha memorial inside the British embassy here.

The blonde actress has been hailed as a heroine by the Nepalese former fighters, who are expected to turn out in their thousands to greet her as she travels around the country this week.

Crowds of supporters waited hours at Kathmandu airport on Sunday, braving the monsoon rain and carrying banners that read "Welcome Joanna, daughter of Nepal" and "Gurkha heroes welcome our British heroes".

Organisers of her trip said some Gurkha veterans living in remote areas have already started walking to the three towns she is set to visit while in Nepal, where many people live in rural villages with no road access.

She is accompanied by her family and by British local government representative Peter Carroll, who in 2007 persuaded her to join the "Gurkha Justice" campaign that he started.

She has said that her father, a British major in the 6th Gurkha Rifles during World War II, would have been "overwhelmed with shame and fury" at Britain's treatment of Gurkha veterans.

The British government announced in May that all Gurkha veterans who had served at least four years in the army could apply for residency after a climbdown in the face of Lumley's campaign. Previously, only those who retired after 1997 had been eligible to apply.

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