Nepal's Gurkhas give hero's welcome to 'Ab Fab' star


June 18, 2010 Updated Jul 26, 2009 at 8:11 AM EDT

Nepal's Gurkhas gave British actress and campaigner Joanna Lumley a hero's welcome when she landed at Kathmandu airport Sunday on her first-ever visit to the Himalayan nation.

Hundreds of soldiers and their families greeted the 63-year-old star of TV show "Absolutely Fabulous", who spearheaded a campaign for the British army veterans to be allowed to settle in Britain.

The actress's impassioned lobbying earned her the adoration of the Gurkhas, who have described her visit as a "homecoming".

"I am delighted to be here," Lumley said as she was engulfed by cheering supporters who presented her with marigold garlands and a traditional shawl.

"Ayo Gurkhali!" she shouted, echoing the soldiers' war cry that means "The Gurkhas are coming".

Britain announced in May that all Gurkha veterans who had served at least four years in the army could apply for residency after a government climbdown in the face of Lumley's campaign.

Previously, only those who retired after 1997 had been eligible to apply.

"We are proud and honoured to have her in our country. She is truly a daughter of Nepal," said Krishna Kumar Rai, vice-president of the Gurkha Army Ex-Servicemen's Organisation (GAESO), ahead of Lumley's arrival.

"She has done us, the British army veterans, an unforgettable favour -- she has given us justice."

The Indian-born actress, whose best-known role was as the cocaine-snorting fashionista Patsy in the hit comedy "Absolutely Fabulous", had become a rallying voice for the men she called the "bravest of the brave".

During her six-day trip to Nepal, Lumley will meet the country's president and prime minister as well as visit three towns with large Gurkha communities.

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