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Nepal parties launch protests on talks-eve

Kathmandu, May 9: Five major parties of Nepal kicked off a mass protest movement against King Gyanendra’s sacking of the Deuba government last year.

As part of the protest, a 20-minute silence was observed throughout the country in memory of the “martyrs”.

Traffic was blocked on the main roads of the capital by party activists initiating a movement that seems to be heading straight for a confrontation with the palace.

Just a day earlier, King Gyanendra had met a few selected journalists where he had expressed anguish at being targeted personally by the political parties.

He reiterated his commitment to constitutional monarchy and wondered why there continued to be any kind of misunderstanding.

The king said the executive authority he had assumed while sacking Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba on October 4, 2002, had been automatically transferred to the new government formed under Lokendra Bahadur Chand on October 11, 2002.

He also said that the people want peace and that every force should be working towards that goal.

The movement’s launch comes a day before the government and Maoist rebels sit down for a second round of talks. The Maoists had presented their demands at the first meeting held 12 days ago, and were hopeful of some response from the government.

The parties are demanding the restoration of parliament to be followed by the formation of an all-party government. They have chalked out a series of non-violent protests to be carried out on a regular basis.

The government has accused the political parties of trying to disrupt the peace talks with the Maoists and has warned that their agitation would be met with force if necessary.

The Maoist rebels, inspired by the revolutionary ideas of the late Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong, want an interim government to oversee the elections. The government has not made any public comment on the rebel demands.

The rebels, fighting since 1996 to topple the constitutional monarchy in the impoverished Himalayan kingdom, also want the army back in the barracks and freedom for their jailed comrades.

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