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Major parties take to the streets in Nepal

KATHMANDU, MARCH 14. Nepal police today arrested nearly 300 political activists belonging to five major parties, who took to the streets against King Gyanendra's power grab, defying the royal Government's ban on public rallies.

The former minister and Nepali Congress member, Balabahadur Rai, the Nepal Communist Party-UML lawmaker, Mahesh Mani Dixit, and the Nepali Congress (Democratic) lawmaker, Akkal Bahadur Bista, were among those arrested by police from Ason, Janabahal and Indrachowk, the heart of the Kathmandu city, as they denounced the royal takeover and demanded restoration of democracy.

Hundreds of agitators belonging to the five major political parties including NC, CPN-UML, NC-Democratic, Peoples Front Nepal and Nepal Sadbhavana Party staged demonstrations in Kathmandu's main trading centre Ason and Bhotahity.

Scores of protesters defied the ban on holding public rallies despite heavy deployment of security personnel. They unfurled party flags and shouted slogans against King Gyanendra's power grab on February 1.

While 13 activists, including the District President, Sunil Koirala, and Nepal Students Union central member Naresh Yadav, were arrested from Siraha district, 150 were arrested from Dhanusha district, 26 from Dang district and eight from Nepalgunj, a party source said.

Moists torch buses

Anti-King demonstrations were also held in Doti, Chitawan and Kaski districts, they said. Maoist rebels in Nepal torched four buses on Monday to enforce a new transport blockade to protest the King's power grab, while an alliance of political parties also planned demonstrations.

The buses were torched at Itahari, 540 km southeast of Kathmandu, according to an official of Eastern Nepal Transport Entrepreneurs Organisation. ``But no one was injured in the incident,'' the official said.

The Maoist leader Prachanda issued a notice on the rebel website on Sunday for ``general strikes, a transport blockade and blockade at local and regional level between March 14 and April 1''.

The King sacked the Government and assumed total power in the impoverished Himalayan nation on February 1 to crush the Maoist rebellion, which has killed more than 11,000 people since 1996.

An alliance of five political parties demanding the restoration of democracy have, meanwhile, scheduled more rallies in Kathmandu and other cities.

The protest is the second in a week organised by political parties. The political parties are not aligned with the Maoists, but have called for talks with them to bring an end to their uprising. The Maoists in turn have assured political parties support in organising protests against the King.

``We urge all the political parties to create a new basis for re-establishment of democracy by forgetting past differences,'' Prachanda said. The Maoists also held a transport blockade soon after the King's February 1 action. — PTI

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