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Nepal King Calls for Talks With Opposition

April 14, 2006|From the Associated Press

KATMANDU, Nepal — King Gyanendra broke his silence today after more than a week of pro-democracy demonstrations in which four people have been slain, calling for dialogue with opposition political parties.

Thousands have filled the streets daily calling for the restoration of democracy and the ouster of Gyanendra 14 months after he seized absolute power.

Many demonstrations have deteriorated into clashes between stone-throwing protesters and security forces, who used tear gas, rubber bullets and, in some cases, live ammunition.

In a message for Nepal's new year, Gyanendra called for "the active participation of all political parties committed to peace and democracy," and he again said the country should hold a general election, although he did not specify a date.

The king's call for elections is in line with a plan to restore democracy he announced shortly after dismissing the government and declaring himself sole ruler in February 2005. It has been rejected by his opponents, who demand that a special assembly be convened to rewrite the constitution and limit his role.

Nepal's pro-democracy opposition, along with a well-armed communist insurgency, argue that any elections under Gyanendra wouldn't be free or fair.

In the speech, the king did not mention the protests that have gripped the Himalayan nation for eight days, or the insurgency.

Gyanendra said last year that he took control to stamp out political corruption and end the communist insurgency.

Nepal's seven main political parties launched the latest wave of protests and a general strike last week to demand that the king restore full democracy.

Four people have been killed by forces firing at the protesters and hundreds have been injured.

Police on Thursday fired rubber bullets and tear gas at lawyers in Katmandu, the capital, who were protesting royal rule.

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