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Last Updated: Friday, 18 February, 2005, 12:27 GMT
King backs coup on Democracy Day
Protester arrested in Kathmandu on Democracy Day
Friday saw a clampdown on communications and protests
Nepal's King Gyanendra has defended his coup, saying on the nation's Democracy Day that there had been growing disillusionment with the system.

He again told the people the coup was necessary to tackle Maoist rebels and what he called corrupt politicians.

Authorities cut off local telephone lines on Friday to thwart planned pro-democracy protests.

There were reports of more than 20 would-be protesters being arrested while shouting slogans.

'Impartial elections'

Amid tight security, busloads of schoolchildren were brought in from around Kathmandu and cultural groups put on shows for the king and queen to mark Democracy Day.

The day marks the return to Nepal of a previous king, Tribhuvan, in 1951 that began the country's first experiment in democracy.

It is clear to our countrymen that we ourselves had to take steps to extricate the country and multi-party democracy from this morass
King Gyanendra's address

The BBC's Charles Haviland in Kathmandu says the day now has an ironic ring as the king's message to the people said there was a growing disillusionment with democracy.

He defended the royal takeover two weeks ago, which has markedly enhanced the role of the army.

He also emphasised the need to conduct impartial elections in an environment of peace and security.

Authorities cut off phone lines and banned buses and other cheap public transport for much of Friday. Media censorship also continues.

The reports of detained protesters were difficult to verify because of the communications blackout.

Earlier this week, the spokesman for the Nepali Congress Party was detained after he had urged people to launch a peaceful struggle on Friday to restore democracy.

Envoys recalled

Nepal has come under rising criticism since King Gyanendra seized control of the country.

Police arrest Congress Party spokesman Arjun Narshingh on 16 February
Arrests of opposition figures have continued since the coup

The United States has now said it may suspend military aid if the king does not restore power to an elected government soon.

A US State Department official said overnight the monarch had assured Washington he would start restoring democracy within 100 days.

The US, European Union and India have recalled their envoys from Kathmandu.

The human rights group Amnesty International, which has just visited Nepal, has warned that human rights abuses will increase, because people who were exposing the excesses of both the army and the Maoist rebels are now being muzzled.

The Maoists have been fighting a nine-year insurgency in which about 11,000 people have been killed.




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