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Nepal's Opposition Rejects King's Call for Reconciliation

Nepal's King Gyanendra has appealed to estranged political parties for reconciliation but the main opposition alliance has rejected his call.

In a speech Sunday marking national Democracy Day, the Nepalese monarch called on "all willing political parties to come forth to fully activate the stalled democratic process in the greater interest of the nation."

The opposition rejected the king's appeal, calling it meaningless, and held a mass rally in Kathmandu to protest his seizure of absolute power one year ago. Riot police patrolled the streets and guarded key locations, but did not interfere.

The opposition said protests would continue until democracy is restored. On Saturday, Nepal's Maoist rebels called for an indefinite nationwide strike from April third as part of their campaign against the royalist government.

King Gyanendra seized absolute power on February first of last year, saying the move was necessary to curb the Maoist rebellion. Some 13 thousand people have been killed since 1996 when the rebels began their fight to overthrow the constitutional monarchy and replace it with a communist state.

Last year, the Maoists forged a loose alliance with the main political parties who were ousted after the king dissolved parliament and curbed civil liberties.

Municipal elections earlier this month were marred by low voter turnout. Seven major opposition parties boycotted the vote, and the election sparked almost daily anti-government demonstrations.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.