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Last Updated: Friday, 27 May, 2005, 18:31 GMT 19:31 UK
Thousands march in Nepal protest
Demonstrators
Nepal's seven main parties have joined forces for the rallies
Up to 10,000 protesters have held a rally in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, demanding democratic rights be restored in the country.

It was the largest pro-democracy rally held in Nepal since King Gyanendra assumed direct rule on 1 February.

Nepal's seven main political parties have vowed to "fight to the finish" to see an all-party government formed.

King Gyanendra has defended his actions in a rare public address, saying they reflected the will of the people.

"This decision was taken in the interest of the nation, people and democracy," he said in a televised speech.

The king sacked the elected government in February because he said it had failed to deal with Nepal's Maoist insurgents.

A state of emergency imposed at that time was lifted last week, allowing demonstrations to be held in certain areas of Kathmandu. However King Gyanendra retains direct power.

This will be a fight to the finish against autocracy
Jalanath Khanal
Communist Party of Nepal
Protesters at Friday's rally shouted "Down with autocracy" and "Long live democracy" as they marched through a district on the capital's outskirts.

Most sat cross-legged in a sea of party flags to hear political leaders speak, while some clambered up buildings for a better view, said the BBC's Charles Haviland from the scene.

Jalanath Khanal, of the Communist Party of Nepal, told the crowd: "This battle will go on until our demands for the reinstatement of parliament and total democracy are fulfilled.

"This will be a fight to the finish against autocracy."

'Rise in violence'

GP Koirala, president of the Nepal Congress Party, said Maoist rebel attacks had increased since February and ordinary people had been caught up in the violence.

Dozens of riot police looked on, but no arrests were reported. Last weekend, the royal council of ministers said anti-royal slogans would not be tolerated at any demonstrations.

The seven parties have put aside political differences to pressure King Gyanendra to return to a constitutional role.

The alliance has also demanded the immediate release of all political detainees, journalists and rights activists as well as a lifting of press restrictions.

Authorities say they are gradually releasing detainees.

They say the protests do not help the government's fight against the Maoists.



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