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Sunday, 27 November 2005  
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Protest against monarchy in western Nepal


More than 30,000 people defied a government ban to take part in an anti-monarchy rally organised by a communist group in western Nepal Friday, witnesses said.

The protestors chanted slogans against the royal government and loudly demanded that the impoverished Himalayan kingdom become a republic, witnesses said from Pokhara, 225 kilometres (140 miles) west of the capital.

Activists ignored local government warnings and poured onto the streets from mid-morning until late afternoon for the rally organised by the Nepal Communist Party-United Marxist and Leninist (NCP-UML), they said.

The party staged the demonstration as a show of strength against King Gyanendra, who on February 1 sacked a four-party coalition government and took total control of the government.

The king justified the internationally-condemned move by saying he needed emergency powers to stop the country's Maoist insurgency that has claimed more than 12,000 lives since 1996.

The district administration earlier Friday had tried to thwart the rally by issuing strict warnings to people not to attend the programme. However, no one was arrested during the protest, an NCP-UML source said.

Friday's mass meeting was the communist party's biggest rally yet and followed a protest last week in Butwal, west of here.

"The programme was very successful in Pokhara," NCP-UML spokesman Pradip Nepal told AFP. "We managed to hold the rally despite strict warnings from the local authorities."

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