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US condemns Nepal crackdown, seeks release of activists

WASHINGTON, Friday (AFP) - The United States condemned Nepal's crackdown on political parties and civil society ahead of a planned rally against the king and called for the release of more than 100 activists who have been rounded up.

The royalist government of the Himalayan kingdom ordered the arrests and cut mobile phone services in a bid to thwart the mass rally scheduled for Friday.

The European Union, neighbouring India and Japan have all expressed concern over the moves, which come just under a year since King Gyanendra threw out Nepal's elected government to deal with a bloody Maoist revolt.

"The United States condemns the decision by the King of Nepal to detain political party leaders and civil society activists in advance of political demonstrations scheduled for January 20," US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

"These arrests and harassment of peaceful democratic forces is a violation of their civil and political rights," he said.

The United States, he said, called on King Gyanendra to release the activists.

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