- Title: NEPAL: Nepal rebels extend truce as king returns
- Date: 3rd December 2005
- Summary: AIRPORT WITH SNOW CLAD MOUNTAINS
- Embargoed: 18th December 2005 12:00
- Location: Nepal
- Country: Nepal
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVAZG4ZM4W532BSFW947Z0PZ7SF
- Story Text: Tens of thousands of people carrying red hammer-and-sickle flags marched in Kathmandu in a UML protest and shouted slogans against the monarch's assumption of power on Friday (December 2).
"Down with autocratic monarchy" and "Let us move ahead for a democratic republic," protesters chanted.
There was no immediate response from the appointed government which, in the past, has said the rebels could not be trusted. Officials say the rebels have used past truces to regroup.
The Maoists had been under popular pressure to extend the three-month truce, which has largely held and reduced deaths.
The rebels have vowed to rejoin the political process after the restoration of democracy and have used the unilateral truce to build trust with the parties.
King Gyanendra is also under pressure from key donors, including the United States, to reconcile with the parties and negotiate with the rebels, who want a communist state.
The king said he had to act in February to crush the anti-monarchy guerrillas who started their revolt in 1996. More than 12,500 people have died.
Nepal's Maoist rebels extended a unilateral ceasefire by one month on Friday (December 2) as thousands of protesters rallied against King Gyanendra's seizure of power in February and a crackdown on political dissent.
Parties, which agreed last month to form a loose alliance with the Maoists to end the absolute monarchy and return Nepal to democracy, immediately welcomed the extension.
The announcement came hours before King Gyanendra returned to the Himalayan kingdom after an African tour and followed an appeal from the United Nations for the rebels to extend the truce -- and for the government to respond in kind.
Despite the ceasefire, the army said soldiers gunned down three guerrillas in a firefight in the east and one soldier was killed by a landmine planted by rebels in central Nepal.
King Gyanendra, who arrived from Cairo in a special plane, drove in a black limousine from the airport to the palace without making any comment.
Witnesses said police baton-charged some people who threw stones at the end of the rally at a security convoy that was on its way to the airport to escort the king.
The impoverished nation has been mired in political turmoil since the king fired the multiparty government on February 1, seized power and banned political dissent.
The deal between the seven main political parties and the rebels has increased pressure on the king to relinquish power.
The parties welcomed the Maoist move as a positive step.
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