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Tuesday, 17 April, 2001, 13:33 GMT 14:33 UK
Nepal opposition members arrested
Nepal opposition protest
The opposition protests have often turned violent
By Sushil Sharma in Kathmandu

Police in Nepal have arrested dozens of opposition members, including the main leader Madhav Kumar Nepal, on the second day of an anti-government protest.

On Monday, more than 100 demonstrators were arrested, but later released.

Six left-wing parties - led by the United Marxist Leninist (UML) - are demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala over allegations of corruption and inefficiency.

Mr Koirala has called for a dialogue to resolve the political crisis - but the opposition has rejected his appeal.

No dialogue

Opposition leaders say they will continue their campaign until Mr Koirala steps down.

Madhav Kumar Nepal, who is general secretary of the UML party, says there is no point in holding talks with the government.

In an interview with the BBC, he said that Prime Minister Koirala had lost his moral authority to continue in office.

The UML is leading the campaign to press for Mr Koirala's resignation over alleged corruption in leasing an Austrian plane for state-owned Royal Nepal Airlines.

Girija Prasad Koirala
Turning the heat on Prime Minister Koirala
The opposition parties also say Mr Koirala has failed to provide internal security - a reference to the recent upsurge in Maoist violence.

Prime Minister Koirala has denied the opposition's allegations.

In an address to the nation on state radio and television, he said that he was ready to discuss all national issues with the opposition.

He called for reconciliation to end what he described as the grave situation prevailing in the country due to the Maoist insurgency.

More than 1,600 people have been killed since the Maoist rebels started an armed struggle five years ago aimed at replacing Nepal's parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy with a communist republic.

Maoists

Mr Koirala urged the rebels to give up arms and start a dialogue with the government.

He said those who gave up arms would be allowed to live peacefully.

There has been no immediate response from the rebels.

But the opposition leader, Madhav Kumar Nepal warned that street agitation, will be stepped up if Mr Koirala does not resign.

Mr Koirala, who heads a year-old majority government of the centrist Nepali Congress party, challenged the opposition to remove him by constitutional means.

The opposition does not have the required numbers to unseat him through a no-confidence motion in parliament.

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See also:

16 Apr 01 | South Asia
Nepal opposition protesters held
08 Apr 01 | South Asia
Thousands protest against Nepal PM
28 Dec 00 | South Asia
Nepal PM faces political crisis
31 Dec 98 | South Asia
Nepal: Instability breeds poverty
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