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Last Updated: Monday, 16 August, 2004, 09:54 GMT 10:54 UK
Nepal braces for rebel blockade
Soldier in Kathmandu
The security forces are patrolling the streets of Kathmandu
The authorities in Nepal have stepped up security amid threats by Maoist rebels to disrupt business life in the capital, Kathmandu.

They said that the security forces have been placed on high alert.

The move comes ahead of a warning by rebels that big businesses will be forced to close from Tuesday.

The rebels also say they will block roads linking Kathmandu with the rest of the country from Wednesday in protest over "government repression".

'Serious consequences'

The home ministry said adequate security measures have been put in place, but did not elaborate.

The BBC's Sushil Sharma in Kathmandu says that there have been concerns of violence following Maoist threats to shut down some big industries in Kathmandu and neighbouring districts.

The rebels say that Tuesday's move is aimed at protesting over the alleged exploitation of labourers.

Kathmandu road
The rebels have also threatened to cut off Kathmandu

In a statement last week, the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry - an umbrella organisation of Nepalese entrepreneurs - called for an end to attempts to disrupt business.

The All Nepal Trade Union Federation - the labour wing of the Maoist rebels - had earlier warned of serious consequences if the businesses defied the call for a shut-down.

They threatened to force an indefinite closure of 10 big business ventures including a leading hotel in the capital, Kathmandu, with effect from 17 August.

"We had placed an 11-point demand including the release of our federation activists and stopping the exploitation of workers but the government ignored our request," federation chairman Salikram Jamkatel said in a statement.

The industries and businesses concerned have denied the allegations.

The rebels have also threatened to block roads linking Kathmandu with the rest of the country with effect from Wednesday, in protest at the alleged repression of their supporters by government forces.

They have been engaged in an armed struggle since 1996 to replace the monarchy with a communist republic.

Nine thousand people have died in violence between the rebels and the security forces since then. Violence has risen sharply after peace talks broke down last year.

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