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U.K. actress gets 'fabulous' welcome in Nepal

Nepal British Actress
Joanna Lumley, left, shakes hands with Nepal Parliament Speaker Subhas Nembang at a civic reception accorded to her in Katmandu on Monday.Binod Joshi / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Nepal's prime minister on Monday thanked "Absolutely Fabulous" actress Joanna Lumley for her outspoken campaign to give thousands of Gurkha war veterans and their families the right to settle in Britain.

Gurkhas have been serving as soldiers for the British for nearly 200 years, but Britain had limited their right to settle there, saying allowing in tens of thousands of veterans and their families would cost taxpayers billions.

Lumley — who in the TV comedy series played Patsy, a chain-smoking magazine editor who slept her way to the top — became the face of their campaign.

She said she was drawn to the cause because her father fought alongside Gurkha soldiers in World War II.

In May, the British government agreed to allow thousands of Gurkhas the automatic right to settle there.

Cheering crowd
Nepalese Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and President Ram Baran Yadav thanked her Monday.

Earlier in the day, Gurkha veterans honored Lumley at city hall in the capital, Katmandu.

"I am very happy that I am at my home in Nepal," Lumley told the cheering crowd. "For my first visit to Nepal but not the last, it makes me so proud to know that I have been here accepted as the daughter of Nepal. Thank you for that."

Since 2004, Britain had allowed only those Gurkhas who retired after July 1, 1997, to settle there. It had argued that those who retired before 1997 — when the Gurkha base was in Hong Kong, then a British colony — had weak links with Britain.

The Gurkhas have served Britain with distinction since 1815. In some years, as many as 60,000 seek to join the British military.