Former BBC Star Hailed as 'Goddess' in Nepal

Published July 27, 2009

| FoxNews.com

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

The actress visited the tiny Himalayan state for a victory tour, attracting hundreds of former Nepalese troops who fought for the British, many of whom say they now regard the 63-year-old as a goddess, the Times of London reported.

Harka Bahadur Pua, an 84-yeard-old Gurkha veteran who fought for Britain during the Second World War, walked six hours from his tiny village to the town of Parbat, where he began a 12-hour bus ride to Kathmandu to meet Lumley, according to the Times.

Gurkhas have been serving as soldiers for the British since 1815, but Britain had limited their right to settle there, saying allowing in tens of thousands of veterans and their families would cost taxpayers billions, the Times eported.

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

In May, the British government agreed to allow thousands of Gurkhas the automatic right to settle there. Nepalese Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and President Ram Baran Yadav thanked Lumley on Monday.

"You have championed the cause of Gurkhas. For this social justice, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to you and to all of your team members," Yadav said.

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."

Lumley was mobbed by hundreds of Gurkha war veterans and their families as she arrived at the airport on Sunday. She greeted them with thanks and the Gurkha battle-cry "Ayo Gurkhali."

Click here for more on this story from the Times of London.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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