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Supplies Scarce in Nepal as Protests Continue Against King


In Nepal, shortages of essential supplies are becoming severe as a general strike called by the political opposition to pressure the king to step down drags on. Nepal has now been in turmoil for nearly two weeks.

Hundreds of vehicles lined up at the few gas stations still selling rationed fuel and prices of vegetables skyrocketed in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, as a 12-day-old strike crippled the supply of essential commodities to the city Monday.

The monarchist government offered armed escorts and cash incentives to vehicles willing to bring in supplies but few drivers were taking up the offer.

The political opposition spearheading a popular campaign to end King Gyanendra's rule has appealed to the people to bear with the situation. They have also urged people to stop paying taxes, water and electricity bills to step up pressure on the King's government to give up power.

The government says it will consider imposing emergency rule if the situation does not improve.

But the opposition is vowing to press on with the demonstrations that are sweeping across the nation.

The political parties have rejected a recent offer by the king to hold elections next year, and plan to hold a mass rally on Thursday.

A leader of the opposition Nepali Congress Party, Arjun Narasingha says the king is not to be trusted.

"Until and unless he will not restore democracy, we cannot go in dialogue and we cannot participate in this so-called elections held [offered] by the King," he said.

Thousands of angry protesters have defied a ban on public protests and rallied daily in the streets of Kathmandu and other towns since the strike began on April 6. Clashes between protesters and security forces have killed at least four people, and hundreds have been wounded. Hundreds of activists and political leaders are in detention.

The scattered clashes continued Monday, including one in the tourist heartland of Kathmandu, where hotel and restaurant workers gathered for a demonstration.

King Gyanendra took direct control of the government in February last year saying the political parties had failed to quell a decade-long Maoist insurgency ravaging the country. Many countries, including the United States, have since urged him to restore democracy and civil liberties.

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