April 21, 2006

Tires burn in Nepal capital, protesters on street

By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Anti-monarchy protesters in Nepal
burned Tires and threw logs and barbed wire across the streets
of the capital Kathmandu on Friday as a curfew imposed to
prevent a march on King Gyanendra's palace came into force.

Black smoke rose from several places in the city of 1.5
million people as protesters, angry at the king's sacking of
the government last year, tried to block the movement of police
and troops.

The protests started two weeks ago but an Indian envoy said
he hoped there would be a "major announcement" by the end of
the day to help bring the crisis to an end.

"I do not want to preempt or predict what the announcement
may be," envoy Karan Singh told reporters in New Delhi. "But we
are hoping that there will be some major step in reinstating
democracy. I think it will defuse the crisis."

The 11-hour curfew in Kathmandu began at 9 a.m. (0315 GMT),
but was only being enforced within the city limits. On the Ring
Road surrounding Kathmandu, tens of thousands marched, waved
party flags and chanted slogans demanding the king leave the

Riot police, troops with automatic weapons and armored cars
stood at major intersections to prevent protesters from
entering the city.

On Thursday, police opened fired on tens of thousands of
demonstrators trying march into the city from the outskirts. At
least three people were killed and up to 100 injured.

Political parties have vowed to try to march to the palace
on Friday.

"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."

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.


A seven-party alliance has been agitating since April 6 to
force Gyanendra to restore multi-party democracy. In all, 12
people have been killed and hundreds wounded in police action
against protesters since then.

He has vowed to hold elections by April 2007, but the
alliance says he is not to be trusted.

Local reports say the king is likely to appoint a former
prime minister, Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, to the post again in
an effort to appease the protesters.

But Bhattarai has apparently indicated he will only take
the position if it is acceptable to the seven-party alliance.

Thursday's crackdown on the protesters appeared to have
focused even more anger on the monarch.

"This way the king cannot rule," said Goma Parajuli, a
woman selling vegetables from a basket as residents flocked to
stalls and markets in the capital to stock up on food.

Some protesters taunted armed police who stood nearby.

"You live on the people's taxes," shouted one man. "You
can't kill the people."

Away from Kathmandu, demonstrations involving 100,000
people and above have also been staged in district towns,
bringing the landlocked kingdom to a standstill.

(Additional reporting by Nigam Prusty in New Delhi)