Ameet Dhakal

KATHMANDU: King Gyanendra's Democracy Day message, in which he defended his February1, 2005 coup, has invited uproar and condemnation from the Government and major political parties.

Senior Ministers and leaders have warned the king while student organisations took out rallies protesting against the message.

The king on Monday issued a statement in which he said, "It is clear that the prevailing situation compelled us to take the February 1, 2005 step in accordance with the people's aspiration."

He said he was compelled to take the decision after the "subsequent governments failed to conduct elections... to maintain law and order."

Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula said, "The king's message is unfortunate and it cannot in anyway cover up the February 1 coup."

Maoist Chairman Prachanda said the statement of the king, "who is in a state of suspension", is a challenge to the pro-democracy forces. Mr. Prachanda said he urged leaders of the seven parties to prepare for declaration of a republic.

Nepali Congress, the main coalition partner, said the statement was an attempt to cover-up feudalistic ambitions. "Such attempts are never acceptable to the Nepali people."

The CPN-UML has slammed the statement as "unconstitutional and unauthorised" and said it was an "obstacle to democracy."