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Last Updated: Saturday, 23 April, 2005, 14:31 GMT 15:31 UK
Nepal king in key Indian PM talks
King Gyanendra (L) and Manmohan Singh
India has pushed for the speedy return of democracy in Nepal
India's prime minister has met Nepal's King Gyanendra for the first time since the monarch seized direct power - a move strongly criticised by Delhi.

Premier Manmohan Singh met the king on the sidelines of the Asian-African summit in Indonesia.

Indian officials said the king told Mr Singh he was committed to returning to the democratic process and that he would free detained politicians.

The king has said he took power in February to tackle Maoist rebels.

No timeframe

Saturday's 45-minute meeting in Jakarta was also attended by Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh.

Indian external affairs ministry official, Rajiv Sikri, said the situation in Nepal was covered in a "frank and cordial" manner.

The king and Prime Minister Singh did not comment as they shook hands before the meeting.

Protester in Nepal
Amnesty says 3,000 political prisoners have been held in Nepal

Officials at the meeting said the king gave no timeframe for his pledges on democracy and freeing political leaders.

Indian officials refused to comment on whether Delhi had agreed to resume suspended military supplies to Nepal in return for the restoration of democracy.

The BBC's Nagendar Sharma in Jakarta says the resumption of top-level contact between India and Nepal is being seen as a sign of both sides softening their positions.

Premier Singh had refused to attend a regional summit in Bangladesh in February, partly citing the situation in Nepal. The forum was postponed.

Most other members of the international community have joined India in repeatedly condemning the king's move.

Foreign Minister Singh met the king separately on Friday to convey India's position.

In a speech to summit leaders, King Gyanendra said he was forced to act because of the bloody nine-year insurgency by Maoist rebels.

"Terrorism and the self-induced inability of the political parties and various governments to rise to the challenge of ever-emboldening terrorists were driving the country to the edge of precipice," he said.

Rights group Amnesty International says about 3,000 political prisoners have been held in Nepal since the coup.

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