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Nepal Monarch Issues New Call for Peace and Unity - 2003-11-09

Nepal's embattled King Gyanendra has issued a new call for peace and unity, as Maoist violence and political instability continues to grip the Himalayan kingdom.

Speaking Sunday in Kathmandu, King Gyanendra, marked the 1990 formation of Nepal's multi-party constitution with a call for peace, unity and what he called good governance. Nepal radio said 141 political prisoners were also released to mark Constitution Day.

Nepal is fighting a Maoist insurgency aimed at replacing the country's constitutional monarchy with a communist state. The rebellion has claimed more than eight thousand lives since 1996. About 900 of the deaths have occurred since rebels abandoned peace talks in August, after the government refused to rewrite the constitution.

The Kathmandu government is also in the throes of a political crisis sparked by the king's move last year to suspend parliament and fire the country's elected prime minister. King Gyanendra replaced the ousted prime minister with a royalist ally, Surya Bahdur Thapa.

About three thousand anti-monarchy protesters marched in the capital today, to press the king to form a national unity government.

King Gyanendra came to the throne in 2001, after his brother, King Birendra, was killed in a palace massacre blamed on a drunken crown prince.