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Nepal to Impose National Emergency - 2001-11-26

Nepal's government has asked King Gyanendra to impose a national emergency following the deaths of 215 people during three days of clashes between security forces and Maoist rebels. The violence erupted when the rebels broke a four month cease-fire.

The recommendation to impose the emergency by the ruling Nepali Congress Party came as state radio reported that dozens of people, mostly rebels, were killed in intense fighting in the Solukhumbhu district in the east.

The latest clash took place after Maoist rebels attacked security posts, set off bombs and looted banks during a deadly wave of attacks in the past three days. The violence abruptly ended a truce between the government and rebels.

Security forces have begun combing rebel hideouts located in remote, mountainous regions of western Nepal. Public activities and publications by Maoists have been banned.

A senior rebel leader said the cease-fire had been called off because the government was blocking peace talks aimed at ending the conflict.

The peace talks began in July but stalled because Maoist guerrillas refused to compromise on their demand for scrapping the constitutional monarchy and writing a new constitution. The government had offered to accommodate rebel demands through amendments to the constitution.

A state of emergency will give the government wide powers to deploy the army to crush the rebellion that flared in 1996. The army had not been deployed against the rebels due to widespread fears that using the military to fight on Nepalese soil would be akin to a civil war.

Many opposition politicians oppose deploying the army against the rebels, but the government is under pressure to take tough measures following the widespread violence in the past three days.

The Maoist rebels have picked up considerable support in the countryside, which remains poor and underdeveloped. Nepal became a democracy in 1990, but it has since been ruled by a series of short-lived governments that have failed to boost economic development.

The latest violence will hurt the nation's tourist industry, on which the Nepalese economy is heavily dependent.

Analysts describe the latest events as the second major crisis the mountain kingdom has faced this year. In June, most members of the nation's royal family were killed, apparently by the Crown Prince who also died.