Riot police in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, have used batons and tear gas to disperse thousands of demonstrators protesting King Gyanendra's direct rule in the Himalayan kingdom.

Several political leaders, including former Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, and scores of other activists were detained during Sunday's rally.

The protesters shouted pro-democracy slogans as they marched through the city's center. Several demonstrators were injured in clashes with police.

The rally, organized by seven main political parties, came a day after Maoist rebels announced a three-month unilateral truce in a bid to win their support.

The Nepali Congress, the country's largest political party, has welcomed the Maoist move. Party officials express hope it will lead to permanent peace.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and Reuters.