Negotiations fail to end ethnic protests as border blockade squeezes supplies in Nepal

The main group of protesters opposing Nepal's new constitution said its negotiations with the government failed to reach a resolution Tuesday even as a punishing border blockade continued to squeeze the country.

Laxman Lal Karna from the United Democratic Madhesi Front said talks with the government would resume Wednesday, adding the government negotiators failed to present a solid proposal to end the protests.

The activity in southern Nepal bordering India has stalled normal life in the area for several weeks and stopped the flow of fuel and supplies to the country's north, including the capital.

"We had set some preconditions which the government had promised to fulfill but failed. We will not end our protests until our political demands are fulfilled," Karna said.

Their demands included free treatment of the injured protesters, monetary compensation for those killed, removing the soldiers from the protest area and stopping the use of excessive force against the protesters.

Another Madhesi negotiator, Sarbendra Nath Shukla, said their main issue with the constitution was the border of the proposed state for their ethnic group but that issue was yet to be discussed.

Government minister Mahesh Acharya said all the issues were discussed and the team was hopeful for a resolution soon.

"We are trying to resolve this as soon as possible so that the suffering of the people of the country will end as the earliest," Acharya said.

The constitution approved last month divides Nepal into seven new states, with some borders slicing through the Madhesis' ancestral homeland in the southern plains along the border. Madhesis, along with several other small ethnic groups, want the states to be larger and to be given more autonomy over local matters.

The Madhesis have close cultural ties with India, which has been supporting them and imposed an unofficial blockade, stopping the flow of oil and other essential supplies over the border.

Nepal obtains most of its fuel and other vital supplies from India. Cars are lining up for miles at gasoline stations, schools are shutting down, shoppers are seeing shortages of vegetables and hospitals are running low on medicine.

Many Nepalis believe India has been retaliating against their government, seeing the constitution as discriminatory toward the Madhesi community.

Indian officials deny there is a blockade and say drivers are afraid to enter Nepal. Nepalese authorities say there is no trouble at many cross-border checkpoints.