Police Crackdown on Protest in Nepal

In Nepal, hundreds of pro-democracy protesters have been arrested and there have been clashes in the capital, Kathmandu. Tension has been running high in the country after the government banned anti-monarchy demonstrations.

Police fired tear gas and beat protesters with bamboo canes in the streets of Kathmandu Saturday as they chanted slogans, "We Want Democracy, Down with Police Repression".

Many demonstrators hurled stones and scuffled with police. Scores were bundled into trucks and taken away as authorities tried to break up the anti-King protests.

The protesters had threatened a mass rally, but instead they kept trickling into the narrow streets in small numbers.

The clashes came a day after the government imposed a daytime curfew and arrested hundreds of activists to stop a mass protest against King Gyanendra who seized power last year. Several opposition leaders have also been put under house arrest, and many student leaders and rights activists have been detained.

The king's crackdown against the protesters and senior politicians has been condemned by the international community. On Friday, U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns criticized the detentions while he was on a visit to New Delhi.

"In Nepal, the United States is very concerned by the action of his Majesty, the King in arresting and detaining members of the political establishment in the last couple of days," said Nicholas Burns.

The government says it has banned the rallies in order to prevent Maoist rebels from inciting violence. But the rebels, who have formed a loose alliance with the political parties in a bid to restore democracy, had said they would not disrupt the protests.

An alliance of seven political parties called the latest rallies to protest the government's plans to hold municipal elections next month. The King says they are part of his road map to restore democracy, but the political parties have denounced them as a sham, and accuse him of trying to legitimize his power grab.

The king says he took control of the government because political parties had failed to end a bloody decade-long Maoist rebellion from wracking the country.

But calls for democracy are growing across the tiny Himalayan nation, and tens of thousands of people have joined mass rallies against the king in recent weeks, some of them in towns outside Kathmandu.