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Nepalese King's Speech Fails to Impress Opposition

The political opposition in Nepal is rejecting the king's call for dialogue, after a week of democracy protests across the country have left four people dead. King Gyanendra gave a speech early Friday calling for talks and reiterating his government's commitment to holding elections.

Opposition party members say King Gyanendra must end the violent repression of anti-government protesters and restore democratic freedoms before they will consider holding talks.

"Most of the leaders are inside the prison, thousands of people have been arrested and tortured," said Rajan Bhattarai, an opposition activist. "So in this very situation, calling for the dialogue - it's simply nothing."

King Gyanendra made the appeal after seven days of anti-government protests. Security forces have used tear gas and rubber bullets against the demonstrators.

The U.S. Embassy has urged non-essential staff to leave the country, in response to the increasing violence.

Nepal's political crisis began in February 2005, when the king assumed full control of government. He says he acted because political parties had failed to end Nepal's decade-old communist insurgency. He has promised parliamentary elections next year, but has given no specific date.