Maoist supporters block Nepal government's main offices on 4th day of crippling general strike

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Nepal's Maoist opposition blocked streets leading to key government offices Wednesday on the fourth day of their crippling general strike to demand the prime minister's resignation, while the government vowed not to bow to protesters' pressure.

Protesters hoped to disrupt the government by blocking streets leading to the Singhadurbar complex which houses key offices and ministries, but many government ministers already had entered the complex under police protection before sunrise.

The Maoists have shut down nearly all travel and kept businesses and schools closed since Sunday as they press their demand that Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal resign and hand power to a Maoist-led government.

They have used violence to back previous strike calls. Thousands of police have been deployed across the capital to prevent it this time, and any outbreaks of violence have been contained.

The standoff has raised fears of renewed bloodshed in Nepal, where the Maoists ended their decade-old insurgency and joined a peace process in 2006. They won elections in 2008 and briefly led a coalition government, but a dispute over the army chief's firing split the coalition, leading to the formation of the current administration they are trying to topple.

The strike also comes as Nepal's Constituent Assembly, elected to draw up a new constitution, struggles to draft the charter before its term expires May 28.

Leaders of the Maoists and the two main ruling parties met for the third day to try to resolve the crisis through talks but have failed to break the deadlock.

Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal and his deputy Baburam Bhattarai met the leader of the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist) Jhalnath Khanal and the president of the Nepali Congress party, Sushil Koirala, at a downtown hotel Wednesday.

Maoist senior leader Narayan Kaji Shrestha told reporters they failed to reach any agreement but decided they would continue talks among the three parties.

"We all want to end the crisis peacefully and soon," he said but refused to give any details of the discussions.

Home Minister Bhim Rawal said the government was working to bring life back to normal, including deploying police to protect banks which have been shuttered by the strike, but the ministry's spokesman Jayamukunda Khanal said banks had not taken up the government's offer of protection and remained closed.

Police would escort additional convoys of trucks carrying essential goods into the city, after escorting a few trucks with fuel and food early Tuesday, ministry officials said.