Friday, Nov. 01, 2002 at 11:47 AM
A Maoist-called general strike has brought much of the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, to a standstill.
Hours before it began, 32 rebels and an army officer died in a clash in the eastern hill district of Okhaldhunga, officials said.
The Maoists want a republic
On Sunday, a series of small bomb blasts caused no major damage or injury, but heightened fears in the already-tense capital.
The increase in violence comes after an offer of peace talks from the Maoists late last week.
The authorities say the overnight clash in Okhaldhunga occurred following an abortive attempt by a large number of rebels to attack the Rumjatar airstrip in the district.
Monday's industrial action was brought by the workers' wing of the rebels, who claim their fellow workers are being repressed.
Most schools, factories and shops in Kathmandu and the neighbouring Lalitpur and Bhaktapur districts remained shut, while very few vehicles could be seen on the streets.
The Revolutionary All-Nepal Free Trade Union is also backing the Maoist rebels' campaign against King Gyanendra's recent move to assume executive powers.
The move was unprecedented in the past 12 years of multi-party democracy and constitutional monarchy in Nepal.
The rebels have been waging an armed struggle to replace the monarchy with a republic.
More than 5,000 people have died in more than six years of insurgency.