- Title: NEPAL: Thousands of Nepalese stream into Kathmandu streets to celebrate democracy
- Date: 26th April 2006
- Summary: CROWD MARCHING PAST RIOT POLICE
- Embargoed: 11th May 2006 13:00
- Location: Nepal
- Country: Nepal
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVAEV3GWENF52NPJEP2WBTIJOIFJ
- Story Text: Hundreds of thousands of people flooded the streets of Nepal's capital on Tuesday (April 25) after King Gyanendra announced a deal to end weeks of unrest, but the rally was part victory celebration and part continued protest.
Gyanendra announced on Monday night that he had reinstated the country's dissolved parliament, meeting a key demand of the seven-party alliance, which swiftly welcomed the decision and called off their protests.
Maoist rebels, who control vast swathes of the countryside, denounced the king's concession as a sham.
On Tuesday, the ring road around Kathmandu turned into a sea of people waving party flags and chanting slogans, some of them heralding the rebirth of democracy, others still angry at the monarch.
Tens of thousands marched into the city centre and crowded near the palace, demanding the King leave the country and punishment for those responsible for firing on and beating demonstrators during 19 days of mass protests that left at least 12 dead and thousands wounded.
Rows of riot police blocked the demonstrators less than 500 metres (550 yards) from the palace, but there was no violence.
The crowds made no attempt to break through but tore down metal signboards carrying excerpts from the king's speeches and shouted "Gyanendra, thief, leave the country".
In the evening, police fired teargas to disperse a few thousands demonstrators listening to speeches in a stadium.
But elsewhere, most of the crowds had dispersed, and the streets were thronged with shoppers and people out for a stroll. Youngsters played football in parks and Western tourists were out bicycling as trucks took riot police back to barracks.
The seven parties that have led the crippling anti-monarchy campaign named former Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, 84, as the new head of government and said the first job would be to ensure the Maoists, fighting a decade-long rebellion, joined the political mainstream.
But the rebels, who insist on elections for a special assembly to write a new constitution, rebuked the king and the parties.
Maoist leader Prachanda said the parties had committed "another historic mistake" and encouraged the people to continue protesting until the parties declared elections for an assembly.
"The proclamation is a sham and a conspiracy against the Nepali people," Prachanda said in a statement. "Our party firmly rejects this."
He also called for a blockade of Kathmandu, a city of 1.5 million people, and district capitals.
In a nod to the Maoists, who have a loose alliance with the seven parties, leaders said work on an assembly was a priority.
"We will be doing all we can to bring Maoists to the mainstream of peace and democracy. Now we have to create an environment for an interim government that will have Maoist participation," said Minendra Rijal, an alliance leader.
The Maoists have been trying to end the monarchy and establish a communist republic and more than 13,000 people have died in the insurgency since 1996.
Giant neighbours India and China welcomed the king's move.
"This is a victory for the people of Nepal, who have displayed extraordinary courage and reaffirmed their faith and commitment to freedom and democracy. The future of Nepal is safe in their hands," the Indian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said the government welcomed efforts by the King and parties to achieve political reconciliation and restore stability.
Nepal's parliament has been dissolved since 2002, and Gyanendra assumed absolute power last year, declaring a state of emergency and vowing to crush the escalating Maoist rebellion.
Speaking on national television late on Monday, the king said he was calling back the assembly.
Gyanendra had offered last week to give power to a prime minister nominated by the seven parties, but they said this was not enough.
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