Pro-democracy activists vow to march in Katmandu

Pro-democracy activists vowed to hold a mass rally Wednesday in Katmandu despite the royal government's ban on demonstrations in Nepal's capital, as protests escalated against King Gyanendra's rule.

Protesters planned to march from several points and converge in the center of Katmandu for a mass protest rally, said Subash Nemwang of the Communist Party of Nepal, a member of a seven-party alliance that is demanding that the king restore democracy.

There was no immediate word from the royal government on whether it planned to continue a daytime curfew in the capital for a fifth day, but officials have insisted they will not allow any rallies inside the city.

"We will defy the curfew and all restrictions imposed by this regime and we will march to the heart of the capital to demand democracy," Nemwang said.

Dozens of protesters were wounded in clashes Tuesday following days of increasingly violent confrontations between security forces and protesters demanding King Gyanendra give up power.

A nationwide general strike called by the alliance stretched to a week on Wednesday, with transport, schools and businesses still shut down. The civil aviation authority said airports were open and flights were operating mostly on schedule, but passengers were forced to walk to the airport because of the few vehicles on the road.

The government said it was banning strikes in essential services such as transport, hospitals, communication, distribution of fuel, banking and tourism, and that violators would be punished, reports the AP.

I.L.