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23.04.2006 Asia

Maoists urge on Nepal protesters


Nepalese Maoist rebels have joined protesters in rejecting King Gyanendra's democracy plan after another big rally in Kathmandu.

"The sea of people on the streets proves that the Nepali people want to get rid of the feudal regime forever," they said in a statement.

Police clashed with thousands of protesters who tried to march on the palace in Kathmandu on Saturday.

About 150 people were injured as 100,000 Nepalis defied a curfew.

The clashes came a day after the king offered to restore democracy.

Protesters rejected the offer as inadequate and the opposition has declined his call to form an interim government.

In their statement, the Maoists described the royal offer as "a show of feudal arrogance and an insult to the great human sea that has taken to the streets".

The rebels effectively control much of rural Nepal.

Brutal tactics

Saturday's protesters brushed past police and army lines in Kathmandu before reaching an inner cordon where soldiers in armoured vehicles and long lines of riot police held firm.

The security forces used robust and at times brutal tactics to push people back, the BBC's Nick Bryant reports from the capital.

Two people were critically injured in one exchange alone, our correspondent says.

Sammu Pratap Rana was one of the protesters caught up in a baton charge by police.

"We were marching along peacefully, when suddenly the police fired teargas shots. I turned and ran," he told BBC News.

"Then I fell and a policeman hit me on the back with a baton."

Violence was also reported in other areas of the city.

The Associated Press news agency said that the Norvic hospital in the Thapathali neighbourhood was full of people seeking treatment.

Doctors there said at least four people had been hurt by bullets and more than 40 were injured in baton charges.

At Kathmandu's Model Hospital, doctors said dozens of people had been hurt, most by teargas but some with bullet wounds, Reuters reported.

Offer rejected

After more than two weeks of protests and at least 14 violent deaths, the beleaguered monarch gave a nationwide speech on Friday to announce that he intended to restore power to the people.

"Executive power of the kingdom of Nepal, which was in our safekeeping, shall from this day be returned to the people," he said.

He called on opposition parties to put forward their candidate for prime minister.

But after meeting on Saturday, the seven-party opposition alliance rejected the king's offer as "meaningless and inappropriate".

The opposition parties complained that the king had failed to address some of their most basic demands, not least the creation of a constituent assembly to decide the future of the monarch.

Many protesters will not be satisfied until the king has given up his throne, our correspondent says.