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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 August 2005, 13:44 GMT 14:44 UK
Unilever closes Nepalese factory
Maoist rebels in rural Nepal
Maoist rebels are targeting multinational firms
Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant Unilever has closed its soap factory in southern Nepal because it is under threat from Maoist rebels.

The rebels are affiliated to the All Nepal Trade Union, which has made a series of demands including higher pay.

Unilever said it could not meet the demands and has closed the factory temporarily to protect employees.

The company said it did not know when the plant, which employs about 2,000 staff, would reopen.

Multinational targets

The factory is located in Hetaunda, about 50 miles south of the Nepalese capital Kathmandu.

"In this situation the company is compelled to shut down its operations from Wednesday," it said in a statement.

In the past, failure by Nepal-based organisations to comply with rebel demands has led to torchings and bombings.

Last year the Maoists exploded three bombs at the factory without prior warning, causing huge damage.

The rebels have claimed 12,000 lives since they began their armed struggle in 1996.

Unilever Nepal is 80% owned by Unilever's Indian subsidiary, Hindustan Lever.

Earlier this month, Unilever reported a 20% drop in profits after another writedown on its diet-food range, Slimfast.

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