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Last Updated: Friday, 25 February, 2005, 16:01 GMT
King releases six leading Nepalis
By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Kathmandu

Protester arrested in Kathmandu on Democracy Day
Those who try to protest are arrested
The authorities in Nepal have released six prominent people including three former ministers detained since King Gyanendra's 1 February coup.

Key party leaders, however, remain in detention or under house arrest.

On Thursday the king defended his takeover in the face of heavy international criticism.

He told journalists the prime goal was to fight terrorism - a reference to the country's Maoist insurgency. The rebels are blockading traffic in many areas.

'Large number'

Those released from detention on Friday include Hom Nath Dahal, who was agriculture minister in the last multi-party cabinet, two other former ministers, two university academics and the general secretary of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists, Bishnu Nisthuri.

They are part of a large number of political figures, human rights activists and other individuals detained after the royal coup.

In the takeover the king imposed a state of emergency and suspended key political rights.

Sporadic releases have coincided with continuing arrests, for instance of people trying to demonstrate against the king.

Other prominent Nepalis now find themselves on a list of people prevented from boarding flights, whether domestic or international, at Kathmandu's airport.

In a meeting with newspaper editors on Thursday, King Gyanendra said that a military campaign against the Maoist rebels ought to run in parallel with an attempt at negotiations.

However an influential conflict resolution body, the International Crisis Group, has called for increased international pressure on the king to reverse his coup.

If this did not work, the crisis group said, donors should consider suspending all aid and implementing sanctions.

Meanwhile a Maoist blockade on all highway traffic is reported to be causing shortages of medicines in remote districts.

It is already crippling life around the country, creating food shortages and forcing people to walk huge distances.

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