April 20, 2006

Curfew extended in Nepal capital ahead of protest

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal's government re-imposed a
curfew in the capital Kathmandu on Friday after political
parties announced they would hold fresh anti-monarchy protests
and try to march on King Gyanendra's palace.

At least three people were killed and up to 100 injured in
protests which swept the city on Thursday.

Over 100,000 people gathered on the outskirts of Kathmandu
and were beaten back by armed police and troops when they tried
to enter city limits in violation of the curfew.

"So many people have come out on the street despite the
curfew and crackdown," said Krishna Prasad Sitaula, a leader of
the Nepali Congress, the country's largest political party.

"It's an indication that our movement has succeeded. Only
the result has to be announced. We will continue this until the
result comes in favor of the people."

An Indian envoy who visited the king on Thursday said the
monarch would soon make efforts to defuse the situation. But
there were no signs of any overtures to the parties.

"I am hopeful that very shortly some sort of announcement
will be made by him which will help considerably defuse the
situation," Karan Singh, an Indian lawmaker, told reporters in
New Delhi on his return from Kathmandu.

"Now the ball is squarely in the court of the king."

Friday's curfew would come into force at 9 a.m. (0315 GMT)
and last till 8 p.m. (1415 GMT), officials said.

Curfew was only lifted at 3 a.m., giving residents a few
hours to stock up on food and essentials. Many could be seen
heading to local markets at dawn.

A seven-party alliance has been agitating since April 6 to
force King Gyanendra to restore multi-party democracy. In all,
11 people have been killed and hundreds wounded in police
action against protesters since then.

Kathmandu has been engulfed by protests, but demonstrations
involving 100,000 people and above have been held in district
towns as well, bringing the landlocked kingdom to a standstill.

King Gyanendra sacked the government and took full powers
in February 2005, vowing to crush a decade-old Maoist revolt in
which more than 13,000 people have died.

He has vowed to hold elections by April 2007, but the
parties say he is not to be trusted and must hand over power to
an all-party government immediately.