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Pressure rises on Nepal's king

As protests continue, some question whether monarchy can survive.

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An uprising that has gripped this Himalayan nation for 18 days has rapidly moved beyond simply a pro-democratic movement to embrace an antiroyalist force as well, prompting analysts here to say that the days of monarchy - even constitutional or ceremonial - are numbered.

An alliance of seven democratic parties, who sparked the uprising by calling a four-day general strike April 6, has rejected the offer made by embattled King Gyanendra in a televised address on April 21. The king asked the parties to nominate a candidate to form a government and said that he was returning executive powers to the people.

But the offer has barely registered with protesters. Suspicious of the king's willingness to follow through - and wary of the security forces' loyalty - protesters have vowed to continue until democracy is restored and the monarchy's future is placed in the hands of the people.

"This leaves the king with two choices," said Narayan Wagle, editor of Kantipur, the biggest Nepali daily. "The first, he agrees to the parties' demands. If the parties decide to support a ceremonial monarchy, his throne is saved. The second, if he refuses the parties' demand, is to see protests turn violent, with people left with no food, no money, and [with] hatred for the king soaring."

While the United States, Britain, India, and the UN were quick to welcome King Gyanendra's comments, pressure on the king has continued to mount from protesters.

An estimated 100,000 people took to the streets Friday, defying curfew orders, while on Saturday, even more protesters marched from the ring road that surrounds the capital to downtown Kathmandu, defying the curfew and dismissing the king's statement as a "conspiracy."


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