Nepal opposition ends protests

Nepal's opposition alliance called off weeks of devastating pro-democracy protests Tuesday after the king gave in to a key demand to reinstate Parliament, and named a former prime minister as its choice to head the new government.

But the Maoist insurgents who supported the demonstrators throughout their often-bloody standoff rejected the king's offer, a sign that the turmoil in the Himalayan country was not over.

King Gyanendra's late-night speech, a pivotal concession which effectively returned authority to elected politicians and could result in a dramatic reduction in royal power, was welcomed across Katmandu, and thousands of cheering people turned out for a victory rally.

"People Power Wins" the newspaper Kathmandu Post blared in enormous letters at the top of its Tuesday edition.

The Maoists, though, called it "a conspiracy to protect the regime," according to a statement signed by rebel leader Prachanda and his deputy, Baburam Bhattarai, and e-mailed to journalists.

They said they had been betrayed by the opposition alliance, with whom they had become allied to oust the king, and vowed to press ahead with blockades that have sealed off major roads for weeks and led to serious shortages of food and fuel in the capital.

"By accepting the so-called royal proclamation the leaders of these seven political parties have once again made a blunder," said the statement from the Maoists, whose 10-year campaign for power has left more than 13,000 people dead and given them control over much of the countryside.

The opposition leaders, meanwhile, said former Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, a veteran politician and head of the country's largest party, the Nepali Congress, should probably head the new government, party officials said.

Koirala could not immediately be reached for comment.

The king's announcement, which came near midnight Monday, followed weeks of mass protests that had threatened to force him from power. The protests sparked clashes with security forces that left 14 demonstrators dead and the country dangerously volatile, reports the AP.


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