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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 February, 2005, 13:35 GMT
'Nepal crisis cabinet' unveiled
King Gyanendra
King Gyanendra at the swearing-in of his new cabinet
Nepal's King Gyanendra has sworn in a new cabinet which he will head, a day after sacking the government and declaring a state of emergency.

The king's moves have been criticised by the UN and rights groups, but he said he had to act as the government failed to protect Nepal from Maoists.

The rebels have called a three-day strike in protest at the measures.

A regional forum the monarch was to attend in Bangladesh has been postponed after India refused to attend.

Most phone lines to Nepal are cut off, although flights have largely returned to normal.

Army on streets

The BBC's Charles Haviland in Kathmandu says the new measures are the most draconian taken by a Nepalese king since absolute monarchy ended in 1990.

The move directly violates the constitution and is against democracy
Sher Bahadur Deuba
Sacked prime minister

Many basic rights have been suspended, including freedom of assembly, the right to privacy and the right against preventative detention.

Our correspondent says soldiers and police in riot gear are everywhere in Kathmandu, particularly near student campuses where protests tend to take place.

However, he says people have been saying they are too afraid to protest because so many fundamental rights have been suspended.

An opposition politician told the Associated Press that a number of politicians had been detained.

"We don't even know how many of our people have been arrested," Shovakar Parajuli of the Nepali Congress party said.

King Gyanendra on Tuesday placed Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and members of his cabinet under house arrest.

Mounting concern

The country's Maoist rebels, who have been fighting a nine-year insurgency for a communist republic, have condemned the king's new measures.

Rebel leader, Prachanda, called a three-day nationwide strike.

NEPAL IN CRISIS
June 2001 - Gyanendra is crowned king following royal massacre
July 2001 - Sher Bahadur Deuba becomes prime minister following Maoist violence
Oct 2002 - King Gyanendra sacks Deuba and assumes executive power
June 2004 - Deuba reappointed prime minister in place of Surya Bahadur Thapa
Feb 2005 - Deuba sacked, king assumes direct power

Spokesman Krishna Bahadur Mahra told the BBC Nepali service that the king had closed the door to any possibility of dialogue.

The Maoists had earlier ruled out talks with ruling politicians, saying they needed a direct dialogue with the king.

The country's new ministers, some of whom have served in previous governments, are mostly the king's close associates, our correspondent says.

Among them, Ramesh Nath Pandey has been named as foreign minister.

The king said the cabinet, which has already been sworn in, would "restore peace and effective democracy... within the next three years".

Nepal's closest allies - India, the US and UK - and also the United Nations - have all criticised the king's actions.

India pulled out of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) meeting scheduled for Bangladesh next week citing "recent developments in our neighbourhood, which have caused us grave concern".

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the king's actions were "a serious setback".

Rights groups, including Amnesty International, said the actions put the Nepalese people at greater risk of rights abuses.

The sacked prime minister, Mr Deuba, was quoted by the Associated Press news agency as saying that the king's move "directly violates the constitution and is against democracy".

The leader of one of the main parties in Mr Deuba's coalition, Madhav Nepal of the Communist Party, said the king had staged a coup d'etat.


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