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542Nepal's King Cuts Nation Off From World

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  • Greg Cannon
    Feb 1, 2005
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      http://ap.washingtontimes.com/dynamic/stories/N/NEPAL_GOVERNMENT_DISMISSED?SITE=DCTMS&SECTION=HOME
      Feb 1, 3:28 PM EST

      Nepal's King Cuts Nation Off From World

      By BINAJ GURUBACHARYA
      Associated Press Writer

      KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) -- King Gyanendra dismissed
      Nepal's government Tuesday and declared a state of
      emergency, closing off his Himalayan nation from the
      rest of the world as telephone and Internet lines were
      cut, flights diverted and civil liberties severely
      curtailed.

      Britain and India both expressed concern, saying the
      king's actions undermined democracy.

      This was the second time in three years the king has
      taken control of the tiny South Asian constitutional
      monarchy, a throwback to the era of absolute power
      enjoyed by monarchs before King Birendra, Gyanendra's
      elder brother, introduced democracy in 1990.

      King Gyanendra denied his takeover was a coup,
      although soldiers surrounded the houses of Prime
      Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and other government
      leaders.

      The king also suspended several provisions of the
      constitution, including freedom of the press, speech
      and expression, peaceful assembly, the right to
      privacy, and the right against preventive detention,
      according to a statement from the Narayanhiti Palace.

      "We will oppose this step," Deuba, who was not allowed
      to leave his home, told reporters. "The move directly
      violates the constitution and is against democracy."

      Nepali Congress, the country's largest party, said the
      king had "pushed the country toward further
      complications" and called for a demonstration.

      India, Nepal's southern neighbor and close ally, also
      criticized the king.

      "These developments constitute a serious setback to
      the cause of democracy in Nepal and cannot but be a
      cause of grave concern to India," India's foreign
      ministry said. "The safety and welfare of the
      political leaders must be ensured and political
      parties must be allowed to exercise all the rights
      enjoyed by them under the constitution."

      India said the king had violated Nepal's constitution,
      which enshrines a multiparty democracy alongside a
      constitutional monarchy.

      Britain expressed similar concerns.

      "This action will increase the risk of instability in
      Nepal, undermining the institutions of democracy and
      constitutional monarchy in the country. We call for
      the immediate restitution of multiparty democracy, and
      appeal for calm and restraint on all sides during this
      difficult time," said Foreign Office Minister Douglas
      Alexander.

      Armored vehicles with mounted machine guns patrolled
      the streets of Katmandu, Nepal's capital, and phone
      lines in the city had been cut. Many flights into the
      city were canceled, although the airport remained
      open.

      Long lines quickly formed at grocery stores and gas
      stations, as worried residents stocked up on supplies.

      "We are so confused. We don't know what is going on or
      what will happen," said Narayan Thapa, a government
      worker. "I am worried I can't reach my family on the
      phone."

      In an announcement on state-run television, the king
      accused the government of failing to conduct
      parliamentary elections and to restore peace in the
      country beset by rebel violence.

      "A new Cabinet will be formed under my leadership," he
      said. "This will restore peace and effective democracy
      in this country within the next three years."

      Later, state-run television reported a state of
      emergency had been declared.

      "This is not the first time that the king has tried to
      impose himself by force, depriving the Nepalese people
      of their freedom of expression," international media
      freedom group Reporters Sans Frontieres said. "The
      international community has failed to respond to a
      deteriorating human rights situation in the country.
      It is now urgent that the U.N. reacts firmly."

      The monarch, who commands the 78,000-member army, said
      security forces would be given more power to maintain
      law and order. But he insisted human rights would be
      respected.

      The king fired Deuba as prime minister in 2002,
      sparking mass protests demanding the restoration of a
      democratically elected government. He reinstated Deuba
      last year with the task of holding elections by next
      month and conducting peace talks with Maoist rebels.

      Nepal has been in turmoil since Gyanendra, 55,
      suddenly assumed the crown in 2001 after his brother,
      Birendra, was gunned down in a palace massacre
      apparently committed by Birendra's son, the crown
      prince, who also died. In all, 10 members of the royal
      family were killed.

      Riots shook Katmandu after the killings. Soon after,
      fighting intensified between government forces and the
      rebels, who control large parts of Nepal's
      countryside.

      The rebels have been trying since 1996 to overthrow
      the government and establish a socialist state. More
      than 10,500 people have died since the fighting began.

      � 2005 The Associated Press.