Yogi's disciples want to create new utopia

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Disciples of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Beatles' giggling guru who highlighted transcendental meditation in the 1960s, want to found a sovereign nation in South America.

They have offered the government of Suriname $1.3bn (£935m) over three years to lease 3,500 acres for a rural utopia 25 miles north-east of the capital, Paramaribo. The proposed "Global Country of World Peace" would mint its own currency, maintain a central bank and its own legal jurisdiction. Perhaps because of early claims that practitioners of TM could levitate, a national airline is not yet on the cards.

Suriname's President, Ronald Venetiaan, has ignored three requests since November to kickstart negotiations for this "country within a country".

Winston Wirht, vice- president of the Maharishi Council for Economic Development of Suriname, promised to create 10,000 new jobs in organic farming and Suriname's Ministry of Agriculture seems willing to begin talks, but the President's approval is essential. He said: "It is unimaginable what Suriname will gain. It's a shame Venetiaan does not seem willing to even talk to us." The impoverished former Dutch colony would be rewarded with 1 per cent of the new country's money annually for 200 years, Mr Wirht said.

The Maharishi, now in his 80s, lives in the Netherlands but continues to travel to the US and India. About five million followers around the world mutter mantras and claim that TM sessions twice daily relieve stress and improve their health.

For years TM practitioners have been eyeing land in Africa, Asia and Latin America that would be suitable for a new country, but so far there have been no takers.