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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 December 2005, 12:52 GMT
Thirty arrests at Nepal protest
Rally in Kathmandu
Police used water cannon to break up the rally in Kathmandu
At least 30 people have been arrested as thousands attended a pro-democracy rally in Nepal's capital, Kathmandu.

Rights groups had organised the demonstration to mark international human rights day.

Demonstrations have been held regularly since King Gyanendra seized direct power in February.

Coinciding with human rights day, the government said it had punished more than 160 soldiers for rights abuses in four years of anti-Maoist operations.

Police said they made the arrests in the capital to stop protesters from entering restricted areas.

We don't accept the king's despotic regime
Krishna Pahadi,
rights campaigner

A ban on demonstrations near the royal palace and the central secretariat has been in place since the king assumed direct control.

Demonstrators chanted "respect human rights" and "we don't accept an autocratic regime" as scores of police used water cannon to break up the rally.

"This is our challenge to the royal regime," human rights campaigner Krishna Pahadi told Reuters.

"We don't accept the king's despotic regime."

On Friday thousands of people attended a pro-democracy rally in Pokhara, west of Kathmandu, demanding the king give up absolute power.

The king reshuffled his cabinet on Wednesday amid growing pressure to restore democracy.

Last month seven political parties signed an agreement with Maoist rebels to boost their campaign against the king.

In its statement on rights abuses, the government said 51 soldiers and officers had been jailed for six months to 10 years for rights abuses, with another 34 had been dismissed and scores more demoted or warned.

There has been persistent national and international criticism of the army over rights abuses.

The army said it was committed to respecting human rights and punishing those found guilty of committing abuses.

More than 12,000 people have died since the insurgency was launched 10 years ago.

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