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Nepalis dance on streets, cheer "people's victory"

Written by: Staff
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KATHMANDU, Apr 25 (Reuters) Nepalis cheered, danced and hugged each other on the streets this morning after King Gyanendra announced he was giving in to massive pro-democracy protests and reinstating the kingdom's dissolved parliament.

Political parties leading nearly three weeks of protests that have crippled the impoverished kingdom hailed the proclamation and said they would most likely call off the anti-monarchy campaign later in the day.

''This victory is the people's victory, long live democracy,'' hundreds chanted on the streets of the capital Kathmandu and in other towns, whistling and cheering.

''The ball is now in the court of the seven political parties,'' said Kumar Thapa, a 25-year-old milk vendor standing close to a crowd of around 100 chanting people.

Scores of people gathered in narrow bylanes outside the home of former prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala, where the leaders of a seven-party alliance that had led the anti-monarchy campaign were meeting to decide on a formal response to the king.

Waving party flags, demonstrators hailed what they called a victory of the people, demanded elections to an assembly to write a new constitution and chanted ''Long live the martyrs, hang the killers,'' a reference to 12 people killed in almost 20 days of protests.

Life limped back to normal in Kathmandu after days of curfew, protests and closures. Many buses and taxis ran for the first time since April 6, and mobile phone connections, cut at the height of the unrest on Saturday, were restored.

Nepal's parliament has been dissolved since 2002, and Gyanendra assumed absolute power last year, declaring a state of emergency and vowing to crush an escalating Maoist rebellion.

Speaking on national television late yesterday, the king said he was calling back the assembly.

''We, through this proclamation, reinstate the house of representatives which was dissolved on May 22, 2002,'' he said, adding that the first session would be held on Friday.

The United States welcomed the move and urged a ''ceremonial role'' for the king.

Gyanendra had offered last week to hand over power to a prime minister nominated by the seven parties, but they said this was not enough. Yesterday's address went much further in content and in tone.

MORE REUTERS SI KN0944

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