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Friday, 29 June, 2001, 14:38 GMT 15:38 UK
Nepal king backs democracy
Gyanendra in procession
Gyanendra was crowned after the king and eight others were killed
By Sushil Sharma in Kathmandu

The new Nepalese king, Gyanendra, has said he remains committed to a constitutional monarchy and multi-party parliamentary democracy.

The king was making his first address to parliament after ascending the throne earlier this month in the wake of the massacre of nine members of the royal family.

The king pledged to continue the policies of his slain predecessor, Birendra.

King Gyanendra also paid fulsome tribute to his predecessor.

An official inquiry into the shooting quoted numerous witnesses as saying that the then Crown Prince Dipendra carried it out and then shot himself.

'Tragedy'

The royal address is a customary parliamentary procedure in which the king outlines the annual policies and programmes of the government.

King Birendra
King Birendra gave up absolute power over a decade ago
But it generated considerable interest this year due to the extraordinary situation following the palace massacre.

King Gyanendra described the massacre as a tragedy.

He called for a joint effort to translate the late King Birendra's ideals into action and speed up economic development.

King Birendra won tremendous praise at home and abroad for the role he played as a constitutional monarch after he gave up absolute power in the wake of a pro-democracy movement a little over a decade ago.

Insurgency

King Gyanendra also said that the government would give top priority to alleviating poverty.

Nearly half of Nepal's population lives below the poverty line, with a per capita income of less than a dollar a year.

He also announced a two-pronged approach to resolve the Maoist problem which experts say is largely caused by rampant poverty.

Without making a direct reference to the five-year-old insurgency in which 1,700 people have died, King Gyanendra said the security forces would be strengthened to control violence and terrorism.

He also pledged to initiate development programmes and start efforts to persuade the rebels to give up violence and participate in peaceful politics.

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See also:

14 Jun 01 | South Asia
Prince blamed for Nepal massacre
07 Jun 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Nepal's night of bloodshed
05 Apr 01 | South Asia
Mao in the mountains
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