Nepali troops open fire on protesters, kill one

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KATHMANDU, Apr 17 (Reuters) Nepali troops opened fire on anti-monarchy protesters in an eastern town today and killed one man, witnesses said, as international pressure increased on King Gyanendra to restore multi-party democracy.

If confirmed, it would be the fifth person to be killed in 12 days of violent pro-democracy demonstrations that have brought the impoverished Himalayan nation to a standstill. Hundreds have been wounded.

Witnesses said troops had opened fire on protesters in the eastern town of Nijagadh, 200 km east of Kathmandu. One person died and five were wounded, they said by telephone.

The Nepali Congress, one of the parties spearheading the protests, also said one person had been killed but a district official reached by telephone denied there had been any firing.

The ambassadors of the United States, China and India met Gyanendra yesterday and were believed to have asked him to take action to end the agitation, diplomatic sources said. But he seemed unlikely to relent, they said.

The sources said moves he could take included calling the seven-party alliance leading the campaign for talks, releasing all those detained in the protests and handing over power to political parties ahead of elections.

But they said that, while he might take some initiatives, he was unlikely to meet all the protesters' demands.

''He will not tolerate any clipping of his powers,'' said one diplomat. ''And whatever he offers may not satisfy the movement.

The movement has gone far beyond even what the parties had expected.'' Gyanendra sacked the government and assumed full power in February 2005, vowing to crush a decade-old Maoist revolt in which more than 13,000 people have died.

He has offered to hold elections by April next year, but activists say he is not to be trusted and should immediately hand over power to an all-party government.

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