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Last Updated: Monday, 20 March 2006, 13:34 GMT
Nepal blockade lifted by rebels
Motorcycles queue up at a petrol pump in Kathmandu
People have been queuing up in front of petrol stations
Traffic has started moving on roads across Nepal after Maoist rebels lifted a six-day-old nationwide blockade.

The BBC's Charles Haviland in Kathmandu says, however, there are signs that it will take several days before the situation completely returns to normal.

The rebel blockade was aimed at forcing King Gyanendra to give up direct powers he seized in February 2005.

Meanwhile, at least 13 soldiers and one rebel have died in heavy clashes east of the capital, the military says.

Trucks loaded with goods have started moving since early morning
Nepal resident Sagar Adikhary

The Defence Ministry says the soldiers were ambushed in Kavre district.

The rebels carried a number of dead and injured comrades away from the scene of the fighting, the ministry quoted witnesses as saying.

More than 13,000 people have died in 10 years of Maoist insurgency in Nepal.

Prices up

After six days of shortages, essential goods have started moving along the highways as trucks carrying food and supplies have begun entering Kathmandu and other major cities.

Foreign tourists stranded in the outskirts of Kathmandu
Foreign tourists were also affected by the blockade

"Passengers carrying their bags are running to catch buses and trucks loaded with goods have started moving since early morning," Sagar Adhikary, a resident of the southern town of Narayanghat, told Reuters news agency.

Prices of food have shot up in the past few days and retailers at the main vegetable market in Kathmandu say they do not know when they will come down.

Tankers are also delivering petrol and diesel to towns and cities, but dozens of vehicles are still queuing up at petrol stations.

Maoist rebel leaders lifted the blockade after fresh talks in India between senior rebels and Nepalese opposition party leaders.

In turn, the rebels have endorsed a four-day general strike called by the opposition parties next month.

"This shows that the Maoists and political parties are committed to their understanding reached four months ago - to end the autocratic monarchy," Padma Ratna Tualadhar, who mediated in the failed talks between the rebels and the government in 2001 and 2003, told Reuters.

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