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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 February 2008, 05:00 GMT
Nepal ethnic group talks collapse
By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Kathmandu

Madhesi protesters
Madhesis want an autonomous state
A leader of an ethnically based political movement in Nepal says talks with the government have collapsed.

Rajendra Mahato said his newly formed Madhesi front will carry on its general strike in the south of Nepal, which has strangled fuel supplies nationwide.

Madhesis, roughly a third of Nepal's population, are now demanding rights after years of neglect.

Reports say the police have shot another man dead in violence related to the two-week-old strike.

Mr Mahato, who recently resigned as a cabinet minister, told the BBC his Madhesi front's latest talks with the government had failed, because Kathmandu had shown "no interest" in making concessions on their demands.

These include asking for their own state within Nepal, with the right to self-determination.

Madhesis are a populous group of south Nepalese peoples who have always been largely excluded from political power and representation.

'Irresponsible government'

Another Madhesi official said the talks had "collapsed" and described the government as "irresponsible".

Lorries queue for fuel in southern Nepal

His faction wants a further delay to elections due in April.

Government ministers could not be reached for comment.

Many Nepalis think postponing the vote would be dangerous. The government does not want to set a precedent in encouraging ethnically-based autonomy in this highly diverse society.

With the Madhesi front's general strike in the south set to go on, violence has continued.

Reports say the police shot dead a demonstrating man, a day after another protestor and a policeman were killed further east.

Houses of non-Madhesi politicians in the south have been firebombed. There are reports of ambulances being attacked. Many local curfews have been imposed.

These are partly to allow tankers to bring in petrol and cooking gas from India.

There are now severe shortages of all basic fuels across the country.

Hospitals, schools and domestic life are badly affected - indeed, so are most activities and sectors.

The crisis shows how a new, ethnic dimension to Nepalese politics is now here to stay.

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