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Hundreds of protesters clash with police in Nepal

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) - Hundreds of demonstrators stoned government vehicles, blocked traffic and battled riot police in the Nepalese capital Tuesday to protest the increase in fuel prices by the government.

The protesters were angered by the 29 percent jump in the cost of kerosene, which is used for cooking by most Nepalese.

Gasoline prices also shot up 11 percent and diesel by 17 percent.

It was the third time this year prices have increased.

College students walked out of classrooms and joined other protesters who blocked the main streets of Katmandu with burning tires.

Demonstrators hurled bricks at riot police, who retaliated by charging into the crowds with batons.

No one was reported seriously hurt in the clashes.

The government-owned Nepal Oil Corporation has the monopoly in importing and distributing petroleum products.

Nepal imports all of its oil.

The government said the increase in international oil prices forced it to hike its own.

It said the corporation was losing an average of US$7 million (euro5.3 million) a month, and the agency was almost bankrupt.

"We had the choice to either commit suicide or increase the prices ... we choose to hike the prices,'' said Commerce and Supply Minister Iswor Pokhrel. - AP

(11 January 2005)

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