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Last Updated: Sunday, 4 September 2005, 15:53 GMT 16:53 UK
Nepal clashes as thousands rally
Girija Prasad Koirala
Girija Prasad Koirala fainted as he was detained
Police in Nepal have detained dozens of opposition leaders and activists as thousands attended a pro-democracy rally in Kathmandu.

The rally came a day after Nepal's Maoists declared a unilateral three-month ceasefire.

The protesters were rallying against King Gyanendra, who has now ruled directly for six months.

Former premier Girija Prasad Koirala was among those detained. He fainted and was treated in hospital.

Ignored

Police used tear-gas and baton charges to break up demonstrators they said had tried to enter central areas declared off limits by the authorities.

Mr Koirala, 82, who leads the biggest political party, the Nepali Congress, was released from hospital after treatment and is now at home.

We have reviewed the Maoists' ceasefire and agreed to appoint a team to start negotiations with them
Amik Sherchan,
opposition leader

The authorities have freed all the detained opposition leaders and cadres.

Arjun Narsingh, spokesman for the Nepali Congress, said: "We condemn the use of such force on a peaceful protest. We will continue our protests until democracy is restored."

The king says he assumed direct power because politicians were corrupt and had failed to tackle the nine-year Maoist insurgency in which about 12,000 people have died.

A day after declaring their ceasefire, the rebels adopted a hard-line position on talks with the king's government.

They said they would talk only with opposition parties.

The government has yet to make a formal response to the ceasefire.

The BBC's Charles Haviland in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu says government ministers have simply said "see what will happen" when asked to respond to the announcement.

The vice-chairman of the council of ministers, Tulsi Giri, told the BBC that the government would make its views public only after studying the Maoist statement.

Official newspapers, radio and television on Sunday morning ignored the ceasefire announcement.

The Maoists have been urging mainstream political parties to forge a broad alliance against the seizure of power by the king.


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See Maoist rebels patrolling in Nepal



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