Opposition parties abandon mass rally in Nepalese capital

Nepal's major political parties have abandoned plans for a mass rally in the capital next week to protest King Gyanendra's rule, but will hold smaller demonstrations across the country, party officials said Thursday.

The alliance of seven major political parties said that a planned four-day strike starting April 6 would still go ahead, however, as they continue to step up pressure on Gyanendra to relinquish his direct control over the government and return democracy to the Himalayan nation.

Minendra Risal of the Nepali Congress Democratic said the alliance has withdrawn their call for people from across Nepal to travel to Katmandu on April 8 for a mass rally, instead urging smaller protests in all major cities and towns.

The proposed rally in the capital had startled the government, which responded by stepping up security, issuing notices asking people to avoid traveling to Katmandu next week and threats to use all means to foil the demonstration.

"We will not be scared or intimidated by the government threats," said Subash Nemwang of the Communist Party of Nepal. "We will go ahead with our plans ... and will stop every attempt by the government to spoil our protest."

The government foiled a planned mass rally in January by imposing a curfew, detaining hundreds of activists and politicians and imposing restrictions on public gatherings.

Maoist rebels, who have fought the government for a decade in an effort to replace the monarchy with a communist state, have pledged their support for the rallies and the general strike but have not said what their role would be.

However, the opposition alliance has said the rebels will not be involved in the protest and strike, which would be peaceful. The government claims it has information that "terrorists" plan to infiltrate the protest, an apparent reference to the Maoists, reports the AP.


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