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Nepal heads for chaos as swords drawn

Written by: Staff
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KATHMANDU, Apr 14 (Reuters) The impoverished Himalayan kingdom of Nepal is staring at a steep spike in violent pro-democracy protests as the unpopular King Gyanendra and his opponents draw fresh battlelines in their intense confrontation.

But the endgame is some distance away as political parties leading a movement against the king's 14-month absolute rule would need to build on a successful campaign they launched this month while ensuring fatigue does not creep in.

Today, the king's opponents rejected his call for unity talks and a promise to hold national elections, saying the Hindu monarch was merely repeating offers they had refused in the past.

''Nepal is headed towards disaster if the king continues like this,'' said Sukh Deo Muni, a Nepal expert and an international relations professor at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University.

''He will make the life of the pro-democracy groups as difficult as possible as it is now a question of his survival. Violence will increase and there will be no let up in state violence too.

''But ultimately, there is no escape for him if he does not budge from his position,'' Muni said.

Nepal, a constitutional monarchy tucked between China and India, has hobbled from one crisis to another ever since nearly the entire royal family was wiped out in a bizarre drug-and-drink fuelled shooting spree by the then crown prince in 2001.

Political instability has since surged and a Maoist insurgency against the monarchy has become increasingly violent, culminating in King Gyanendra, who succeeded his dead brother, sacking the government and taking full power in February 2005.

MORE REUTERS SI PM1810

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