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King, Opponents Still Sparring in Nepal

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

The crisis in Nepal shows no sign of abating. The capital, Katmandu, is under curfew. The embattled king remains isolated. And in the countryside, there have been more clashes between Maoist insurgents and government forces. With pro-Democracy advocates promising another massive protest tomorrow, opposition to the monarchy is hardening. But as NPR's Philip Reeves reports from Katmandu, the opposition is also divided.

(Soundbite of drums and hand clapping)

PHILIP REEVES reporting:

The enemies of the King of Nepal are on the streets again. This is Katmandu's Ring Road, where thousands of protesters gather every day. A police helicopter hovers overhead and is greeted with defiance.

(Soundbite of protesters whistling, yelling)

Leaders from an alliance of seven political parties have come here to rally their supporters. These are the same politicians who King Gyanendra last week asked to appoint a prime minister. They rejected the offer, saying they wanted more. Ram Chandra Poudel, general secretary of the Nepali Congress Party, says since the king's announcement popular support for the uprising has grown.

Secretary RAM CHANDRA POUDEL (General Secretary, Nepali Congress Party): The government is gaining strength day by day. We are not (unintelligible) our road map is clear. The seven parties' road map is very clear. And we would like to go toward that road.

REEVES: That road is lengthy. The parties want Nepal's parliament, which the king dissolved, to be reinstated to form an interim government. They want a ceasefire with the Maoist insurgents who control much of Nepal's countryside, and negotiations to get them to lay down their weapons and join a Democratic government.

And they want the election of an assembly to write a new constitution, one that makes sure a Nepali monarch can never again seize absolute power. So far, King Gyanendra's reaction to these proposals has been to lock himself in his palace, and the people of his capital city inside their homes.

There's been a daytime curfew in Katmandu for four days. Argin Casey(ph) a former cabinet minister and leading member of the Nepali Congress Party, says the king hasn't much time.

Mr. ARGIN CASEY (Leading Member, Nepali Congress Party): He has to come as soon as possible in the democracy line. Otherwise, we will have no (unintelligible) except to go ahead with the people.

REEVES: But the people's mood is hardening.

(Soundbite of gunfire)

A mob hurls rocks; riot police fire tear gas and rubber bullets. This is another part of Katmandu's Ring Road. Here, the King's curfews are always ignored and police appeals go unheeded.

(Soundbite of police officer yelling)

Politicians in this homeland kingdom are talking about reducing the king's status to that of a ceremonial monarch. But many demonstrators now want to get rid of the monarchy altogether and establish a Republic. Deepa Sestra(ph) says the king needs to act quickly.

Mr. DEEPA SESTRA: If he doesn't listen to the voice of the people, then he must one day be captured or will be killed by the hands of people.

REEVES: Tomorrow, the seven parties plan a massive pro-democracy rally. In a house in a back street of Katmandu, Ban Dev Gautam, leader of the powerful communist Party, is leading a handful of supporters. He has just spent a day and a half in prison; so now he is dodging the security forces. He says Tuesday's rally will send a clear message.

Mr. BAN DEV GAUTAM: (Leader of Nepalese Communist Party):(Through Translator) This will show the world we want a Republican state, that we are against anarchy, and we want an inclusive democracy.

REEVES: Thousands of people have been injured and more than a doze killed by police during the last two and half weeks of demonstrations across Nepal. Tomorrow, those figures could rise again. Gao Gautam says this is a peaceful uprising against the king, but to achieve their goals, he says people will do whatever it takes.

Mr. GAO GAUTAM: (Through Translator) If the situation demands a lot of bloodshed, so be it. We still will go ahead with our revolution and get rid of the monarchy.

REEVES: Philip Reeves, NPR News, Katmandu. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.