Nepal's major alliance of political parties said yesterday they have reached a fresh agreement with communist rebels to oppose King Gyanendra's absolute rule over the Himalayan country.
The alliance's seven parties announced in a statement that they and the rebels will push ahead with protests to restore democracy in Nepal.
Gyanendra has drawn fierce, widespread opposition after he seized control of the country in February last year, saying the measure was necessary to halt corruption and fight the communist insurgency.
The communist rebels have fought for a decade to replace Nepal's constitutional monarchy with a communist government. The conflict has claimed nearly 13,000 lives.
No details of the agreement between the parties and rebels were immediately given yesterday. The two sides had been negotiating for four days in New Delhi, but the statement was issued in Nepal.
The alliance has been urging the rebels to withdraw a blockade of highways that has crippled life in Nepal, and to support the parties' peaceful movement to restore democracy.
The guerrillas had been calling for a nationwide, indefinite general strike beginning April 3.
Yesterday's statement, signed by leaders of the seven parties, said both sides have agreed instead to hold a four-day general strike April 6-9 and a mass rally in the capital, Kathmandu, on April 8.
The rebels' highway blockade has halted trucks and other vehicles on major routes for a sixth day. Thousands of drivers have stayed off of the roads due to fears of rebel attacks, interrupting fuel deliveries and causing food prices to soar in mountainous areas.
Nepal has no train lines, and virtually all fuel, food and other supplies are transported by truck.
In the resort town of Pokhara, about 200km west of the Kathmandu, car drivers were limited to buying 5l of fuel, or 1l for motorcycle riders.
Service station owners said they had only a few days' fuel supply left.
Pokhara is a gateway to the mountainous areas in north-central Nepal.
State-owned Nepal Oil Corp, which has a monopoly on importing and distributing oil in the country, said it has fuel stocks in a depot about 16km from Pokhara.
However, it couldn't find drivers willing to take the fuel on the highway to the service stations, company spokesman Sushil Bhattarai said.
Fuel was still available in Kathmandu, which has storage facilities, and shortages were not reported in other towns.
The rebels began the blockade on Tuesday, aiming to cut off the main cities and towns from the rest of the country as part of efforts to destabilize the rule of King Gyanendra.
Rebel violence has risen since the guerrillas ended a unilateral ceasefire in January and resumed attacks on government positions and troops.