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Last Updated: Monday, 23 January 2006, 17:17 GMT
Nepal king eases Kathmandu curbs
Burning tyres in Kathmandu
There were violent scenes at the weekend
Nepal's royal government has lifted a night-time curfew and a ban on public gatherings in the capital, Kathmandu.

The decision comes after violent clashes in the city on Saturday between police and pro-democracy demonstrators.

Mobile phone links, suspended last week, were also partially restored. The measures were imposed for what the authorities said were security reasons.

The BBC's Charles Haviland says the move, ahead of a big opposition rally on Tuesday, took Kathmandu by surprise.

Our correspondent says the authorities may have felt that continuing the restrictions would be counter-productive.

We will hold the elections no matter what - it's not our right to stop them
Information Minister Shrish Sumshere Rana

Nepal's Home Minister Kamal Thapa has been quoted as saying that the security situation has improved, but his reasons for saying so are not clear.

Earlier, Information Minister Shrish Sumshere Rana admitted to the BBC that Maoists were operating inside Kathmandu.

But he insisted the government would press ahead with controversial local elections due next month - as a way of "putting democracy back on track".

Opposition parties say the polls are undemocratic and aimed at entrenching direct rule by King Gyanendra who seized power last February.

"We will hold the elections no matter what," Mr Rana said.


His comments came after a weekend of arrests and clashes between opposition parties and security forces in the capital.

Nepalese police act against protesters in Kathmandu

On Monday opposition parties held small protests against the elections in different parts of the capital.

Despite the relaxation in security measures, human rights groups say more than 100 political detainees picked up last week are still being held.

Mr Rana admitted many of the detainees did not advocate violence, but said street protests might provide a cover for Maoist violence - so people would remain incarcerated "as long as is necessary".

Nepali Congress president Girija Prasad Koirala was among senior opposition leaders who had their house arrest lifted on Sunday.

Much of Nepal outside the capital, where security is worse, is under very long-standing curfews which in some cases begin as early as 1900 local time.

The army now says at least 25 people died in a battle between troops and the Maoists south of the capital at the weekend.

On Sunday suspected rebels killed an election candidate in the town of Janakpur, about 380km (235 miles) south-east of Kathmandu.

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