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Gyanendra in democracy vow, silent on poll date

Kath mandu, Jan. 3 (Reuters): Nepal’s King Gyanendra pledged today to uphold multiparty democracy in his troubled nation in his first public speech after he fired an elected Prime Minister and plunged the country into political turmoil.

But he did not say when elections would be held in the impoverished country, which is struggling to quell a Maoist revolt and has barely recovered from a 2001 massacre in which the then king and eight royals were gunned down by the crown prince.

The monarch triggered a political crisis when he dismissed Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba last October amid a row over the timing of parliamentary elections and appointed a staunch monarchist as the head of an interim government.

“It is our desire that instead of indulging in mutual recrimination, all patriots should work in unison towards the nation’s welfare,” the king said at a rally in Biratnagar city, 500 km east of Kathmandu. The speech was broadcast live on state radio.

Mainstream political parties have rejected Deuba’s dismissal as undemocratic and stayed away from the rally. They have also declined to nominate members to Chand’s interim Cabinet.

The monarch said upholding multi-party democracy in the Himalayan nation was his top priority. “Upholding nationalism, multi-party democracy and social justice has... been our top priority,” the king said. “The Nepalese people aspire for law and order in the country, harmony in the society and improvement in their living standards.”

Maoist rebels, fighting to replace the constitutional monarchy with Communist rule, called a general strike in east Nepal today. But state radio said people defied the call and attended the rally at a heavily guarded sports stadium surrounded by soldiers with automatic rifles.

Princess to wed

Princess Prerna, the only daughter of King Gyanendra and Queen Komal, is getting married on January 22, palace officials said today. The princess, 24, is marrying Raj Bahadur Singh, 29, a commoner who graduated from the University of California.

The wedding will take place in the Narayanhiti royal palace in Kathmandu, where the massacre took place on June 2001.

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