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Nepal’s King Says He Will Return Power to People

BY Admin  April 21, 2006 at 11:45 AM EDT

His announcement, broadcast on state television and radio, was met with some skepticism. The Nepali Congress, the country’s largest political party, said protests would continue because the king did not mention any constitutional changes to his own authority, according to Reuters.

His political opponents launched a general strike April 6 that has drawn tens of thousands of people to the streets daily, paralyzing the country. At least 14 people have been killed and hundreds injured in the clashes between security forces and protesters.

A few demonstrations broke out after Gyanendra’s address, with some participants yelling, “Hail democracy! Gyanendra leave the country!” according to the Associated Press.

Earlier, more than 100,000 demonstrators defied a government curfew and shoot-on-sight orders and filled the streets outside Nepal’s capital Katmandu. The government said it imposed the curfew to protect people and the peace.

Gyanendra had seized power in February 2005, saying he needed to squelch a Maoist insurgency that has killed nearly 13,000 people over 10 years.

International officials warned the king’s regime may be near an end.

“Ultimately, the king will have to leave if he doesn’t compromise,” said U.S. Ambassador James Moriarty on Friday. “And by ‘ultimately’ I mean sooner rather than later.”

Prior efforts to reach a compromise between the government and Nepal’s seven main opposition parties have been stymied. Two senior opposition leaders involved in negotiations with communist rebels were arrested Friday as they tried to return to Katmandu.

And although Maoist insurgents, who control much of the countryside, recently have aligned themselves with political parties, their history of violence and political extremism concerns even their allies, according to the AP.